Headlines: June 23rd, 2006

A new unit is being established at the Department of Health to encourage social entrepreneurs to help create ways to provide choice in health and social care, It will encourage innovation and entrepreneurship in health and social care and aims to develop new services to meet patients and service users’ needs better.Care Services Minister Ivan Lewis said the voluntary and community sector was well paced to understand what services people in the community needed and it could help the Government to meet its White Paper commitment to improving the quality of services, making them more flexible and making them available closer to where people live.

The establishment of the new Social Enterprise Unit came on the same day that the Prime Minister announced increased involvement of the voluntary sector in the provision of community equipment, such as wheelchairs. Mr. Lewis said the unit would encourage social enterprises to involve staff and service users in designing and delivering services and achieve greater value for money. A Social Enterprise Fund will be set up from April next year to help with set-up costs. “Getting the third sector more involved in providing services will bring wider benefits by recycling proceeds back in to the community,” he said.

Meanwhile, under the Transforming Community Equipment Services Project, the initiative announced by the Prime Minister, key stakeholders, including the community sector, will help find new ways to deliver services with the aim of cutting down on multiple assessments across health and social care. It will also explore how to harness the capabilities of both the third and private sectors.The Government’s aim is to develop a new model by Autumn next year.

Only yesterday the National Council for Voluntary Organisations criticised the Government over what it said were ‘systematic failings’ in its approach to the delivery of public services by the voluntary and community sector.