Headlines: May 2nd, 2007



Secure Healthcare, a pioneering new social enterprise company, is set to provide healthcare services in Wandsworth, the UK’s second largest prison. Prison inmates are promised a significant improvement in healthcare standards as they are invited to become members of the ground-breaking scheme.

The venture is supported by a Pathfinder Grant from the Department of Health to help with set up costs. The Pathfinder programme is designed to lead the way in delivering innovative services to the public sector. The Office of the Third Sector, which is part of the Cabinet Office, is promoting the delivery of services by social enterprise companies and community and voluntary groups.

By giving prisoners the chance to take increased responsibility for their physical and mental health, as well as offering the full range of primary, secondary and specialist care, Secure Healthcare claims it will have a positive impact on people’s life choices as a result of their innovative approach. The move is set to have wider implications for prisons across the country, as the prison healthcare sector comes under increased scrutiny.

Substance abuse and mental health problems, which are far more common amongst offenders than the general population, will be tackled by the company. There will be a holistic approach to care, ensuring that offenders are part of a managed care pathway that gives them access to services equivalent to those in the community whilst in prison, and better long-term outcomes on release.

As a social enterprise, a company trading for better social outcome, Secure Healthcare will be run by the staff and inmates at Wandsworth prison and will reinvest its profits into the services it provides. The prisoners will be members of the co-operative and this should engender a sense of co-ownership with an effect on motivation.

There are more than 55,000 social enterprises in the UK. These arebusinesses with primarily social or environmental objectives, principally reinvesting surpluses in the business or community. The businesses are diverse, ranging from small, community-owned village shops to large companies winning multimillion pound contracts.

A recent report by the Third Sector Steering Group urged public sector organisations, including local councils, to outsource more functions to the third sector and called for a genuine culture change with a greater understanding of the benefits third sector organisations can bring in delivering services.