In Research


Year: 2019
Published in: Social Enterprise Journal
Cited as: Henderson, F., K. Hall, A. Mutongi and G. Whittam (2019). “Social enterprise, social innovation and self-directed care: lessons from Scotland.” Social Enterprise Journal 15(4): 438-456.


This study aims to explore the opportunities and challenges Self-directed Support policy has presented to Scottish social enterprises, thereby increasing understanding of emerging social care markets arising from international policy-shifts towards empowering social care users to self-direct their care.Design/methodology/approach This study used guided conversations with a purposive sample of 19 stakeholders sampled from frontline social care social enterprises; social work; third sector; health; and government.Findings An inconsistent social care market has emerged across Scotland as a result of policy change, providing both opportunities and challenges for social enterprises. Social innovation emerged from a supportive partnership between the local authority and social enterprise in one area, but elsewhere local authorities remained change-resistant, evidencing path dependence. Challenges included the private sector “creaming” clients and geographic areas and social enterprises being scapegoated where the local market was failing.Research limitations/implications This study involved a small purposively sampled group of stakeholders specifically interested in social enterprise, and hence the findings are suggestive rather than conclusive.Originality/value This paper contributes to currently limited academic understanding of the contribution of social enterprise to emerging social care markets arising from the international policy-shifts. Through an historical institutionalism lens, this study also offers new insight into interactions between public institutions and social enterprise care providers. The insights from this paper will support policymakers and researchers to develop a more equitable, sustainable future for social care provision.


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Policy Makers

The findings presented here are of relevance to policymakers nationally and internationally, as they offer an increased understanding of emerging social care markets arising from policy-shifts towards empowering social care users to self-direct their care. Local authorities were found to largely constrain their social care markets through controlling the choices individuals could make over their care, including the types of activities they could purchase and the types of organisations they could purchase them from. Such constraint was found to be an artifact of both existing procurement legislation and internal local authority change-resistance. This resistance to change also hampered social innovation and the growth of small, new social enterprise entrants. While the timing of the introduction of the Social Care Act and the pressures of austerity did little to support local authorities to consistently implement the policy, it could not explain local authorities’ failure to recognise the added value and expertise social enterprises could bring to the social care sector.

Future Research

This study is limited to the views of a purposively selected group of people currently engaged in social care in Scotland who have an interest in social enterprise. A larger systematic investigation with a broader range of stakeholders is urgently needed to give greater insight into the range of issues presented here, including the ongoing lack of social care provision in some areas, the local authority governance of social care quasi-markets; the relationship between local authorities and the social enterprise sector; the lack of personal choice over care; and the constraint on social innovation through an overdependence on historic processes and traditional care activities.