Executive Summary

chc-photoCHC is a public service mutual (co-operative)A and an example of how the entrepreneurial spirit of a small group of like-minded people can establish a new way of providing individualised, affordable and quality care in a supportive and empowering work environment.

In CHC’s innovative model of home care service delivery, care workers are both CHC employees and owners. In an industry known for its low pay, poor working conditions and high staff turnover, CHC is able to provide a unique working environment where worker members are directly involved in the business. Workers co-operatively make decisions on issues that affect them such as salary, work schedules, client care programs and training. The profits are reinvested back into the business to improve systems, conditions or to save for future expenses.

It is this worker/member engagement and reinvestment of profits that sets CHC apart from existing public and privately run homecare providers. By creating an empowering and autonomous work environment, CHC aims to increase worker members’ job satisfaction and retention. As a result, the quality and consistency of care provided to clients improves, as well as their health, wellbeing and loyalty to CHC.

CHC offers three key lessons for others seeking to establish an employee-owned public service mutual:

  1. Seek out technical expertise in the financial management and governance areas as well as industry expertise in feasibility and business planning;
  2. Seek out diverse sources of capital instead of relying on government funding which tends to favour larger more established businesses; and
  3. Build trust with your members and work with them to help build their understanding of the benefits of being a co-operative.

A Public Service Mutual or co-operative is ‘an organisation which wholly or in part delivers public services through a cooperative or mutual governance structure, whereby members of the organisation are able to be involved in decision-making, and benefit from its activities, including benefits emanating from the reinvestment of surpluses1.’

In Australia we have categorised co-operatives into three main groups – consumer, producer or employee and enterprise co-operatives. They can also be a combination of all three.