From charity to social enterprise: the marketization of social care

Fiona Henderson, Christine Reilly, David Moyes, Geoffrey Whittam

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
812 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose:In Scotland, the self-directed support (SDS) legislation is a catch-all payment system which brings challenges to local authorities, service delivery organisations and the service users it is intended to empower. Set against a backdrop of cuts to local authorities and third-sector funding, this policy presents third-sector organisations with both the opportunities and challenges of commercialising their activities to become more sustainable. The purpose of this paper is to provide evidence of the challenges faced by one charity as it engages in a process of hybridity to accommodate changes in its funding due to the introduction of SDS.Design/methodology/approachThe paper utilises a case study approach. The paper captures the experiences and views of managers, staff and parents advocating for their children through interviews with a purposive sample from each group. The challenges of gathering data and giving a voice to caregivers advocating for children with complex needs are discussed, particularly the difficulties in accessing a hard to reach group.FindingsThe findings identifies issues which have arisen because of the proposed changed in strategic direction of the organisation due to the introduction of SDS and are all related to hybridity. The findings are arranged in four sub-sections based on the themes that emerged from the qualitative data generated from the interviews: the practical delivery of care; tensions between care and quality, the care workforce, and the parent perspective.Research limitations/implicationsSDS policy has had unexpected impacts and reactions whilst rolling out across regions in Scotland, but policymakers and those involved in the care sector, including consumers, face significant challenges in gathering evidence not only from the vulnerable populations this policy affects but also from organisations already under pressure from austerity-led cuts. This paper presents the challenges to organisations involved in caring for children with complex needs, who are a particularly neglected group of stakeholders.Practical implicationsOrganically arising barriers to organisational transition from charity to social enterprise are presented, as staff and caregivers react to the prospect of SDS uptake affecting their organisation. Proactive attempts to embrace a hybrid approach by the organisation are analysed.Social implicationsUnderstanding how social care organisations and clients are reacting to the implementation of individual payments as opposed to the previous system of block contracts is crucial as the sector faces very real prospects of organisations closing when individuals are able to pick and choose care. A policy based on choice and control for the consumer risks removing choice through a loss of services in the marketplace, leaving vulnerable populations at risk.Originality/valueThis study is unique. No research has been done exploring the transition of charities servicing children with complex needs in anticipation of self-directed payments creating an open market. The paper further contributes to the existing knowledge regarding hybrid organisations within the third sector
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)651-666
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviour and Research
Issue number3
Early online date8 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 11 May 2018


  • Austerity
  • Neoliberalism
  • Personalisation
  • Self-directed support
  • Social Policy
  • Third-sector hybrids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Business, Management and Accounting (miscellaneous)


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