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Can social investment enable a better old age for all of us?

Social issue | 

“Improving the quality and reach of social care to meet rising demand is one of the biggest challenges our country now faces… It is crucial that we ‘tap’ every resource that exists to help us create the conditions needed to transform social care into a service that older and disabled people, and their families, really can rely on.”

This stark assessment from AgeUK’s Charity Director Caroline Abrahams provides a snapshot of the growing crisis in social care currently unfolding in the UK, leaving many older people without the support they need to live full and dignified lives. But across the UK there is a surge of innovation from charities and social entrepreneurs developing creative approaches to tackling this challenge. This sits at the core of the work that Big Society Capital has recently been doing to try to understand how socially motivated investors can fuel further social change in this arena.

Following the publication of two reports (‘Scaling Up Solutions To Social Care’ by London Economics, co-commissioned by Big Society Capital and AgeUK and ‘Health and Social Care and Social Investment’, from Big Society Capital’s own Social Investment Insights Series) this week we brought together charities, social enterprises, policy makers, commissioners and investors to help identify what’s needed next.

Through a discussion chaired by Hazel Blears HP, under Chatham House rules, the following themes emerged:

1.    Social care is one of the biggest areas of latent potential for social investment to make a difference. There are identifiable savings and growing commitment from all major stakeholders. There is innovation happening that could be scaled. And the rising cost of social care will make it one of the biggest challenges that an incoming government will face.

2.    A culture change is needed. A key challenge from several of the social sector organisations in the room was how to incentivise charities and communities to think more broadly than their traditional focus on grants. One suggested solution was to help ease the transition through blending grants and social investment. Social investment also needs to be simplified for charities and for commissioners so that they can get to grips with it even while juggling the daily changes they are already dealing with. There is a long way to go in supporting commissioners to take more risk and embrace change. And we all need to get better at learning from failures and taking risks.

3.    New approaches to outcomes measurement would help drive change. Many organisations spoke of their desire not to reinvent the wheel, and of the potential power, not just for investors and commissioners, but also for older people, of being clearer on what works and why. Social investment was seen as a positive driver for improving evaluation and outcomes measurements. There were also suggestions about shaking up the language of outcomes, with a greater focus on prevention and the value of unlocking potential.

4.    A whole system change is needed. In particular, there was much discussion about the need for the social investment agenda to move out of Cabinet Office and, in this case, into the Department of Health. A simple recommendation was for the Department of Health to follow the example of the Department of Work and Pensions by launching a £100 million innovation fund. Many saw the Better Care Fund as a wasted opportunity which could be better utilised. Other suggestions focused on learning from countries such as Australia and New Zealand which have used ‘Alliance Contracting’, using this to better align investors, commissioners and delivery organisations. But even though system change is part of the solution, even a shift of getting 10% of commissioners to genuinely think differently could deliver significant impact and savings.

5.    Investors can be motivated to become social investors by a business imperative. It was stressed that all investors have a choice of where to put the money that is on their balance sheet. And that there are a diverse range of investible opportunities, from outcomes based social impact bonds, to capital intensive accommodation.

These were just some of the points discussed. If you would like to contribute further to these discussions, please contact Daria Kuznetsova, Strategy and Market Development Director, who leads our issue-focused work around health and social care.

Thanks to all those who attended the discussion including: ADASS, Cabinet Office, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, CASA, DERiC, Department of Health, The Guardian, Independent Age, Legal and General, London Economics, Macmillan Cancer Support, Nesta Impact Investments, Oomph!, Reform, Royal London Asset Management, Royal Voluntary Service, Saga, Scope, Shared Lives Plus, Social Care Institute for Excellence, Social Finance, Zurich Insurance, Hazel Blears MP and Nick Hurd MP.


Last updated | 
29 January 2015


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