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Get better value for money from small care providers

30 June 2015

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Smaller social care providers are more effective than larger providers, according to a study from the University of Birmingham.

Micro-enterprises – defined as organisations comprising of five or fewer full-time staff – offer a more personal service to customers than larger enterprises such as agencies or local authorities, are more innovative, and provide better value for money, the research suggests.

Dr Catherine Needham, who led the research, said: “Previous studies have shown the poor quality of much large-scale social care: 15 minute home visits with a revolving door of poorly trained staff. Our research shows that very small providers can deliver more personalised and higher quality support, without it costing any more than large provision.”

There was in-depth studies of 27 care organisations across England (a range of micro, small, medium and large social care providers). Also, 143 people were interviewed – including owners, managers, members of staff, carers, and those receiving care services, including older and disabled people.

Dr Needham said: “A lot of micro-enterprises are set up by people who are disillusioned with working for large organisations, or have experienced poor quality care for a member of their family. They need dedicated start-up business support which can help them understand care sector regulation and funding as well as more general small business advice. They also need help to market their services to potential users as they aren’t likely to have a formal contract with the local authority in the way a large care company will have.”

One care provider who was interviewed runs a small day service, and said one benefit of small providers is her staff’s relationship with the local community: “Our members go out and get recognised by the shopkeepers and people, and they develop relationships with folks in the community,” she said.