Business Model: SCA Healthcare

An organisation set up by a Council for Voluntary Service has become the UK's first social enterprise dentist

SCA provides healthcare in the Southampton area, and offers care services, community transport and training for health staff. It also runs what it believes to be the UK's first social enterprise dentist.

SCA was founded in 1991 following the Government's decision to move more care work into the community.

"SCA was set up by the local Council for Voluntary Service because we wanted good quality care in the community," says Brian Strevens, chief executive and founder of SCA.

The local authority was required to outsource 80 per cent of the work, and there were a lot of bad private providers, he says, so "social services welcomed us with open arms".

SCA was set up as an industrial and provident society, based on the models used by housing associations, because it felt the model allowed it to be more entrepreneurial than traditional charities and allow staff to be members of the business and the board.

"We received a £90,000 grant to start up, but we were determined to live on contract income," says Strevens. Income is now about £10m a year.

He says the decision to set up a dental business came out of recruiting care workers abroad. "When local dentists were withdrawing NHS care, we discovered there were a lot of underemployed dentists in eastern Europe, so we brought them to the UK and set up centres in the poorest wards in Hampshire," he says.

The business might franchise its model, says Strevens. "We now want to disseminate good practice," he says. "We're hoping to do that using money from the Social Enterprise Investment Fund."

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