Why We Need to Revive the Co-Operative Movement

It’s time for a social healthcare system that puts people at the heart of the service. The healthcare system is broken, because it is not community based. Centres of excellence, that strive to provide excellent clinical care, is a model that’s inherently exclusionary for those on low incomes who cannot afford to travel to those centres of excellence, or who are physically unable to do so, due to illness or childcare commitments. Our healthcare system should be community lead. It has to be responsive to local needs. We need to create a more personalised and caring health service for everyone, that is community based. The co-operative movement has always believed in ordinary people coming together to initiate collective action and to shape the health service that is best suited to the needs of the local people. More funding needs to be allocated to delivering primary care in the local community as opposed to shining beacons to excellence that can only be accessed by the few. 
I have recently spent time learning about the co-operative alternative to high cost, private nurseries. I looked at two London based co-operative nurseries which are showing that there is a better way to deliver high quality, affordable childcare – Grasshoppers in the Park and the Co-operative Childcare in Maida Vale. These two nurseries were very different in style and size, but shared a core set of co-operative values which they applied to the children’s learning and the way they involve parents.
Grasshoppers is a small parent-led co-operative in Hackney. It was set up by parents who all have a say in how the nursery is run and can reduce their fees by contributing time and skills. Staff are paid the London Living Wage and are well qualified, and the day-to-day ratio of trained staff to children is higher than the government guidelines.  many of the parents were self-employed, so the participatory structure enabled them to flex up and down the cost and timing of their childcare to fit their irregular work patterns. 
I would also like to talk about the other example, Co-operative Childcare in Maida Vale, run by Midcounties Co-operative. In many ways, it couldn’t have been more different. Where Grasshoppers has 15 or so children in attendance, Maida Vale caters for over 100 children. However, the ethos of the nursery was very much the same – empowered staff, engaged parents and well looked-after children. Parents can be members of the co-operative, which means they receive a share of any profits as a dividend, keeping the service more affordable. Therefore, if the government funds not for profit social care co-ops, than this can help fix the broken healthcare system. 
In the same way, a co-operative housing plan can provide a positive impact for local communities with housing shortages. A co-operative housing system supported by cheap government finance can build and manage properties where the tenants are the members of the co-op who can manage the maintenance and rental income for the benefit of the housing co- operative association for a particular area. A housing development based on a cooperative model can create a sense of collective responsibility among tenants in running their new homes. Merthyr Valleys Homes (MVH) is an example of what a positive impact co-operative housing can offer to Wales.
MVH has become the largest tenant and employee mutual in Wales.  They own and manage over 4,200 homes across the county borough of Merthyr Tydfil. The Association’s board sought to take a step further and empower tenants and employees by allowing them to become Members. As a result, on 1st May 2016, MVH became a mutual housing organisation.
Their purpose is to operate for the benefit of the community – which they shape through a vision titled ‘Yfory’. What is impressive is their core values as a mutual organisation – reflected in their structure of a democratic body, board and members. through the vision of MVH – and with support through cheap finance from the local authority – the option of a housing co-operative was identified as part of a brighter future for the 12 flats that are now in the co-operative on the Gellideg estate. These flats were retained, refurbished and the residents have formed a co-operative to run the block of flats.
Therefore, I propose that a co- operative housing model, where the properties remain in the ownership of the co-op, can offer a viable solution against homelessness in our society.
 by Tadgh Quill-Manley, Cork North-Central branch

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