A decision by a group of residents to challenge the transfer of community care services in Gloucestershire to a community interest company is a sign that social enterprise is misunderstood, according to Peter Holbrook, chief executive of Social Enterprise UK.
Last week, the primary care trust NHS Gloucestershire announced it would delay handing over care services that employ 3,000 people and cost £80m a year to a new community interest company called Gloucestershire Care Services.
The announcement followed a judicial review brought by a local resident, Michael Lloyd, who with the backing of local pressure group Stroud Against the Cuts claimed the PCT had not properly explored all options, including allowing other NHS organisations to tender for the contract.
Holbrook said that opening up the service to tender created the danger that community care could be privatised instead, and that he hoped this was not the final result in Gloucestershire.
"This opposition might have arisen if the local community wasn’t consulted early enough in the process, but we believe it is symptomatic of a much wider issue – that social enterprise is misunderstood or poorly understood," he said.
"Many people are suspicious of social enterprise because they haven’t seen one at work before."
He said it was important to explain social enterprise to local communities in order to ensure that they understood its benefits.
"If Gloucestershire Care Services makes another application, it will need to work hard to involve the community," he said. "We know that when the stakeholder consultation process is followed well, local people are very often the biggest advocates of social enterprise."