A pioneering West Yorkshire enterprise is crowdfunding to launch a “revolutionary” way of delivering social care.
The Equal Care Co‑op, based in Hebden Bridge, is raising upwards of £300,000 through a community share offer to develop the UK’s first social care ‘platform co‑operative’, inviting individuals, businesses and institutions to back their innovative plans.
Says Founder Member, Kate Hammon:
Equal Care Co‑op exists to put the relationship between the person giving care and the person receiving care at the forefront of every single decision that we make. We want to radically reshape the UK’s broken care system.
The £100,000 minimum target was reached within weeks (nearly £330,000 has been invested to date) which unlocks further match‑funding of up to £173,870 from Co‑operatives UK, the trade body for co‑operative businesses. This includes £73,870 from an emerging fund set up to support platform co-ops, thanks to funding from Open Society Foundations and £100,000 from the Community Shares Booster Programme, funded by Power to Change. Before launching the share offer, Equal Care Co‑op also received business support and mentoring from The Hive, Co‑operatives UK’s co-op support programme funded by The Co‑operative Bank, and UnFound, an accelerator programme for platform co‑operatives in the UK.
Secretary General of Co‑operatives UK, Ed Mayo, says:
We are proud to support Equal Care Co‑op with this significant investment. As the first UK social care platform co‑op they are paving the way and creating a replicable model to change the face of social care delivery. We hope their success will encourage and inspire other tech or social care companies and entrepreneurs to explore co‑operative ways of working.
Equal Care Co‑op is set up as platform co‑operative – a business that operates on or through a digital platform, offering democratic ownership to its users, workers and investors. It uses online technology to take an innovative approach to social care by giving greater control to the care givers and receivers.
Equal Care’s Emma Back explains:
Our share offer relies on people who believe in what we’re doing and who want to see Equal Care fully launched. People have put in anything from £100 to £10,000 to get us to our target. This support has been absolutely amazing and we’ve seen a real increase in people willing to invest now they’ve seen significant institutional support from both Co‑operatives UK and the Booster Fund.
This is the first time a platform co-op has used community shares as a route to raising capital in the UK. The institutional funding has given us a crucial vote of confidence that’s anchored our offer within the movement, shows people we’re serious and has helped others to decide to invest themselves. We really hope this model will pave the way for the UK platform co-op space to grow.
The funds raised will enable Equal Care Co‑op to develop the software and digital technology needed to facilitate the relationship between care givers and receivers. Equal Care already has two ‘care circles’ – small networks of care givers and receivers based in a local area – established in the market town of Hebden Bridge and isolated village of Blackshaw Head. Investment is needed to further the development of these networks. The share offer will help these circles to grow, enabling about 30 people to be supported in Hebden Bridge and 20 in Blackshaw Head. Investment will also allow Equal Care to develop and launch new circles.
The online platform will enable the people within each ‘circle’ to self‑manage via an online platform involving care and support workers, professionally trained volunteers and people who need care and support – matching the needs and skills of each member of the group. It will allow the care receivers to choose who supports them and how, and have control over their data and who sees it. Finally, the care givers will be part of peer support networks and be able to choose when and where they work, giving them greater control over their working lives. Something that is often lacking in traditional social care agencies.
Equal Care’s Emma Back continues:
Equal Care Co‑op is the UK’s first care and support platform co‑operative – we hope the first of many created across the UK. Investors can help support our mission, while earning a fair return for a project that is making a genuine difference to people’s lives.
The crowdfunder is organised using a fundraising model unique to co‑operatives, a ‘community share offer’, where investors become co‑owners of Equal Care Co‑op as part of their investment.
In addition to the institutional funding, Equal Care is galvanising support from the wider co‑operative sector. Unicorn Grocery, one of UK’s largest worker‑owned co‑operatives, will invest at least £5,000. Member Debbie Clarke explains:
It’s really exciting to see care work properly valued and approached with a radically different, co‑operative mindset. ‘Solidarity in co‑operation’ can come in many shapes; as a well-established business, we’re in a good position to invest financially in enterprises like this that are just getting started. But as a new, innovative organisation, Equal Care have shared technology and tools that have really helped us out, too.
Angie and her husband Andrew, who have been instrumental in developing the local community support circle in Blackshaw Head, have been managing the care for Andrew’s mum for several years:
Managing the quality of care is incredibly difficult. We’ve had four different care agencies in the last two and a half years, upwards of 50 different carers coming through…The great thing about having carers in my village is that they are on my doorstep so I trust that they’ll come in all weathers – they won’t let me down.
The offer is due to close on 14 August. Investment is simple and straightforward through the Ethex online portal www.ethex.org.uk/equalcare