Understanding the Contribution of Social Enterprise to the Social Care Sector: An Exploratory Study

Social care services in England are often delivered by private companies that may prioritise profit and low cost over quality of care. An alternative type of organisation is the social enterprise. 

Social enterprises are businesses with social missions that reinvest any profits they make back into the service or community. They have been supported by the UK government and are reported to deliver increased efficiency, innovation and quality compared with public services or for-profit businesses.

However, research evidence in this area remains sparse and often anecdotal. This research, partly funded by the NIHR School for Social Care Research, has begun to fill this gap through an exploration of:

  • The existing state of knowledge on the delivery of adult social care in England by social enterprises.
  • The reported outcomes of care social enterprises for service users, carers, staff and communities.
  • How Community Interest Company (CIC) social enterprises compare to other public, for-profit and not-for profit ownership models operating in the social care sector.
  • The appropriateness of methodologies for capturing the outcomes and costs of social enterprises that deliver adult social care services. 

Research aims and objectives

Research Aim

To understand the contribution of social enterprises to the adult social care sector in England.

Research Objectives

  1. Through a scoping review of the literature, establish the existing state of knowledge on the delivery of social care in England by social enterprises.
  2. Undertake a ‘mapping’ of care social enterprises in three areas of England to identify their characteristics and the context within which they operate.
  3. Use stakeholder interviews to understand the contribution of social enterprises to social care and to identify the outcomes they are reported to deliver.
  4. Through qualitative interviews, explore how staff and leaders in care social enterprises conceptualise the outcomes of their activities for staff, and the individuals and communities they support.
  5. Analyse CQC and Skills for Care data to understand the quality and performance of Community Interest Company (CIC) social enterprises in comparison to other organisational models in social care.
  6. To draw on the literature review and interviews to appraise economic methodologies in terms of their appropriateness for capturing costs and outcomes relevant to care provision by social enterprises.

Research outputs

Academic Outputs

Hall, K. and Alexander, C. (2023) Exploring the distinctiveness of social enterprises delivering adult social care in England, Health and Social Care in the Community.

Kerlin, J., Ye, M. and Hall, K. (2023) Do social enterprises fulfil their social promise? Quality of social care CICS and other legal forms. Academy of Management Conference Paper

Hall, K. and Kinghorn, P. (2021) ‘Measuring Outcomes in Social Care’ Book Chapter. Social Impact Measurement for a Sustainable Future 

Policy and Practice Outputs

Research Team

  • Dr Kelly Hall, Reader in Social Policy University of Birmingham (SSCR Principal Investigator). 
  • Dr Philip Kinghorn, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Applied Health Research, University of Birmingham (SSCR Co-investigator) 
  • Dr Chloe Alexander, Research Fellow, University of Birmingham.
  • Kelly Hayward, Co-researcher, University of Birmingham.
  • Dr Janelle Kerlin, Associate Professor, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University.
  • Meng Ye, PhD student, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University