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Public Service Mutuals Research

Commissioned by Government Inclusive Economy Unit, Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS)

This research project for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) examines the role and potential of Public Service Mutuals that are owned by staff and communities. The project presents an important opportunity for mutuals to contribute to the further development of their own organisations and the sector by helping to identify success factors and support needs.

Mutuals are organisations that have left the public sector to become independent enterprises that deliver an increasing variety of public services, including in health, social care, education, culture, leisure and housing. They can be any legal form, but many are voluntary, community or social enterprises (VCSE) which facilitate the involvement of employees, service users and other stakeholders in organisational decision making and innovation.

The research, which runs from January 2018 – March 2020, is collecting evidence in order to:

  • Monitor the current health and development of the mutuals sector
  • Contribute insight and learning to help make the case for the mutual model as a viable way of delivering public services
  • Inform policy decisions about how government and others can further support the growth and sustainability of mutuals The work includes a ‘State of the Sector’ survey conducted by Social Enterprise UK to which all Mutuals are invited to respond.

The CEEDR team are conducting longitudinal case studies of 12 mutuals to gain further understanding of the issues and challenges faced. The 12 case study mutuals have been selected to represent a mix of service areas: Health & Social care; Education, Youth & Children’s Services; Culture, Media & Libraries; Employment & Skills; Housing; Sports & Leisure. The selection represents the diversity of the sector and characteristics of mutuals that include: different stages of development (how long since mutualising / leaving the public sector); size bands (turnover / employees); geography (coverage across different regions, localities); types (i.e. governance, legal structures etc.   

The study builds on previous research conducted by Middlesex University on mutual spin-outs with four cases from this being revisited to add further depth to the longitudinal element.