The government has created a mutuals taskforce to support public sector staff who want to turn their services into "mutual pathfinders", Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude has announced.
The taskforce will identify areas of the public sector with the greatest potential to develop social enterprises, find the barriers to creating them and work out how these can be removed, according to Julian Le Grand, professor of social policy at the London School of Economics, who will lead the taskforce.
He told Third Sector that one of the main challenges in creating mutual pathfinders would be satisfying the needs of all stakeholders. "If it comes from management, staff will see it as an excuse to cut costs," he said. "If it comes from staff, management often fear they will lose control."
Le Grand said the taskforce would produce a series of reports on the subject, but there was no definite timescale for this yet.
Maude also announced nine new pathfinders that will work to spin out services into independent social enterprises under the "right to provide", which gives government workers the right to run their services as independent cooperatives.
They include Salvere, which is a community interest company providing adult care and support services in Blackburn, the nurse-led therapy unit of Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Stockport Further Education College.
Speaking on a visit to Swindon Intermediate Care Centre, which is already working to become a mutual, Maude said: "When you take power away from bureaucrats and give it to people on the ground, they often come up with better, more efficient ways of doing things.
"Already we've had huge interest from front-line staff who want to mutualise their services. The new mutuals taskforce will inject real momentum into this agenda."
Maude also revealed that several organisations will provide mentors for new mutuals, including the service provider A4e and the law firm Bates Wells & Braithwaite.
Organisations already signed up to provide mentor support include the John Lewis Partnership, PwC, KPMG and Central Surrey Health, one of the first social enterprises to have been created from a public sector spinout.
The other members of the mutuals taskforce are:
- Patrick Lewis, partners' counsellor, John Lewis
- Jo Pritchard, joint managing director, Central Surrey Health
- Ed Mayo, secretary general, Co-operatives UK
- Patrick Burns, executive director, Employee Ownership Association
- Peter Marsh, academic director of enterprise, University of Sheffield
- Peter Holbrook, chief executive, Social Enterprise Coalition.