The push for a ‘third way’: mutuals, co-operatives win favour

Is there a “third way” of service delivery? A new report argues for mutuals and co-operatives. There’s strong evidence in Britain, and the federal government likes it.

Australia should heed the European trend of using mutuals and co-operatives to deliver services traditionally provided by government in areas such as disability, employment, housing, aged care and healthcare services, a new business-backed report argues. And the federal government has immediately signed up to the idea.

The Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) white paper — Public Service Mutuals: A third way for delivering public services in Australia — recommends government “create an enabling environment for the growth of PSMs” by working with stakeholders and experts to identify policy or funding barriers. It argues:

“… the research undertaken to date, and the experience in the UK and other jurisdictions, shows that co-operatives and mutuals have the potential to generate better social outcomes, greater value for money, higher returns on investments, greater economic and social resilience, and higher levels of consumer engagement and employee wellbeing.”

The McClure review interim report into Australia’s welfare system, released in June, also spoke of mutuals approvingly. It argued that:

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