Stepping Out NOW                                February 2015
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Mutuals: The beginning of the end?

Last month saw an interesting test of the world of Public Service Mutuals, as Circle Health announced its withdrawal from the contract to manage mid-sized hospital Hinchingbrooke.
So, what can we learn from this case?
Firstly, we should try to be protective of brand Mutual.  Lord Owen’s ‘Beware the Mutual’ article in the Guardian shows how some commentators want to tar the whole Mutual sector with the Circle brush. The sector’s response in the Guardian was apt – mutuals are, by and large, succeeding on every level and to generalise about mutuals is wrong (see:  
Secondly, given public perceptions about NHS ‘privatisation’, we need to play a smarter political game. We have to get across the difference between mutuals like Circle - which are majority-owned by hedge funds - and the vast majority of mutuals which are fully staff owned and function as Community Interest Companies or Co-ops. Did Circle really share core aims and values with most healthcare spin-outs? While we applauded Circle’s attempts to do something new, it is a difference worth talking about.  
Thirdly, this is is not the time to fly the white flag. The DH and Cabinet Office have just invested £1m into its ‘Mutuals in Health Pathfinders’ programme, in which - under the guidance of Kings Fund - nine NHS trusts are exploring how they can apply the positive lessons from Mutuals to their situation. 
That single clear message will ultimately come through: mutuals work, we need more of them and they present an exciting and effective alternative to privatisation of the NHS.

To read Paul's full blog click here.

Paul Jansen


Worried about  retaining a core contract against strong competition?  Seeking to grow by winning new contracts?
Then WIN! could be the right event for you. Specifically aimed at mutuals and social enterprises,  Stepping Out have brought together the very best know-how and insight into a one-day experience that will be a guaranteed good-investment of your time and money. 
Attending WIN! will, we guarantee, help you to do this.

Join us at Nesta, London on Monday 20th April 2015.

For more details and to book one of the 50 limited places, please click here.

Ask the Expert

Rob Harris is our Tender Writing and Change Management expert and comes with many years of experience. 

We asked Rob: ‘With many of the recent mutuals and social enterprise spin outs now approaching the first retendering of their core contracts, what are the five key messages for them in winning existing and new contracts to build growth for the future?’

To read Rob's response please click here.


On the Sofa                                                  

We are lucky to have been joined on the sofa this month by Tony Carr, Managing Director of Leading Lives who spun out of Suffolk county council, three years ago under Tony's excellent lead.

Leading Lives is a Social Enterprise operating as an employee owned Co-operative. The company has been developed from local authority run services into a dynamic social enterprise business that is a member of Co-operatives UK. As a Social Enterprise, the business trades for a primarily social purpose.

To read Tony's responses, please click here



Cabinet MP Francis Maude is to stand down from Parliament at the General Election. He will be missed a great deal by many of us. An arch-moderniser in the Tory Party, he pushed hard for radical change both in the way Government operates and in the way public services are delivered.  

Read the thoughts from Stepping Out here

£300 has been donated this month to Farm Club, St.Ives to help them continue to build on their amazing space by building fully working toilets. Read about Farm Club on their website


To Stepping Out Client Catalyst Choices CIC who have this week spun out of Warrington Council, to follow their twitter, click here


New Lottery Fund - The power to change

Applications open for Lloyds Bank's Social Entrepreneurs Programme

PossAbilities are recruiting for 2 Non exec directors

Good Reads:

Craig's blog in The MJ on Crucial Steps to commercialisation

Government calls on the rich to back Social Enterprise

Leaders of 19 mutuals respond to David Owen's article on Hinchingbrooke

Liam Black - A-Z of Social Enterprise - to order your copy click here

Phenomenal Year Ahead, New Blog by CEO of EAO, Iain Hasdell

Circle pulls out of Hinchingbrooke Hospital - Canary in the mine?

Why the public prefer to believe Pickles by Craig Dearden-Phillips


The MJ Future Forum - 26th March 2015

WIN! - Stepping Out event for mutuals and social enterprises - 20th April 2015

The MJ Achievement Awards 2015 - 18th June 2015

LGA Annual Conference - 30th June - 2nd July 2015

EOA Day - 3rd July 2015

Support and investment to grow your business
If you are looking for support to grow your social business contact us 07887 414042 or

Join Our Talent Pool!
We get involved in some fascinating assignments and have associate opportunities for people with particular skills and experience that will help move our clients forward.  If you have a talent that you think those setting up and developing new public service delivery models could benefit from then we’d love to hear from you.  Send a CV and covering note to Rob Fountain at and let’s start the conversation.
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