Care and Share Associates (CASA) - social care with a difference

Phrases like ‘care in crisis’ have crept into common usage. An aging population, alongside austerity measures and an overworked and underfunded National Health Service has negatively impacted on social care provision.

A 2014 review by the Local Government Information Unit think tank, led by former Care Minister Paul Burstow, found that inadequate funding and poor working practices were putting people at risk. The prognosis is gloomy, with fiscal and demographic pressures likely to intensify. 

But a solution is already at hand. And organisations like Care and Share Associates (CASA) are showing that a co-operative approach reaps rewards for both employees and service users. Set up in 2004 to deliver a fresh and innovative approach to health and social care, CASA is the number one employee-owned domiciliary care company operating in the north of England. And the numbers the care provider generates are impressive.

Following a 10-year track record of strong growth, CASA boasts more than 850 employees who deliver 18,000 hours of care per week – over six metropolitan areas. Turnover per annum has burst through the £10 million barrier. But the numbers only tell one half of the story.

"Profit is not wrong – but it is our belief that a reasonable and sustainable profit is best generated by delivering a quality service, not by cutting costs, corners and ultimately, quality."  Guy Turnbull, CASA

Providing high quality care for service users - older people, disabled people (including children) and those with learning difficulties – is the primary concern. But could a serious alternative to the large ‘for private profit’ providers be delivered using a social and ethical business model? The unequivocal answer from CASA is yes.

Dr Guy Turnbull, CASA Managing Director, said: “Our social and ethical business model and investment in staff does not weaken our proposition but in fact enhances it - leading to high-quality care, staff engagement and motivation, and strong commissioner relationships.

“Engaged employee owners provide the highest quality care and we also have low staff turnover, making the business more successful. And profits are then reinvested in staff and growth. High quality care and support is all about the workforce.”

The way CASA provides care and support is shaped by a belief in mutuality, participation and quality, which is shared across the company’s workforce. And no leakage to external shareholders ensures that delivery is the focus for all social care initiatives.

“Because we are the owners it’s easier to see that we can have a brilliant future if we manage it correctly and really get involved."  Jeff Powell, CASA

Dr Turnbull said: “Profit is not wrong – but it is our belief that a reasonable and sustainable profit is best generated by delivering a quality service, not by cutting costs, corners and ultimately, quality.”

The level of staff training demonstrates that emphasis is on quality service delivery, as well as CASA’s commitment to its workforce.

Jeff Powell is a CASA Trainer and elected member of the care provider’s General Council. He said: “We pride ourselves in not settling for the minimum standard of training. We’re looking for the gold standard.”

That means annual training – as opposed to courses every two or three years - in multiple areas such as safeguarding and infection control. Mr Powell added: “There’s a cost factor but we think it’s worthwhile. When staff go out to service users they are more confident. It’s a real success factor.”

And a knock-on effect of lower recruitment impacts on the balance sheet in a positive way.  Mr Powell said: “The care sector is terrible for staff turnover, but we have a good record in staff retention. It’s because we are member-owned and a social enterprise.”

Engagement, whether that be with staff, members or customers is a buzzword banded around the offices of numerous business forms. But for CASA it is much more than rhetoric, with actions following the words. 

Mr Powell said: “You can see it in the way we bounce ideas off each other, the way we engage. We have had some brilliant ideas go forward – nothing is taboo. I love seeing when these ideas come to fruition.

“Because we are the owners it’s easier to see that we can have a brilliant future if we manage it correctly and really get involved. We all have stake in the future of the business.

“There’s no person at the top who is creaming everything off. People will say ‘I am an owner in this business’. There’s pride. They have a head like a peacock strutting around – in a good way. It’s really nice to see.”

Read more about CASA.