The Great Care Co-op


Part of our work at the INOU is working for “the rights and interests of those who want decent employment and cannot obtain it. We promote and campaign for policies to achieve full employment for all.” During the course of our Decent Work project, described in Issue 41 of our E-bulletin, the role of community lead responses to achieving decent work was noted.

One particular example in the home care sector is the Great Care Co-op: Ireland’s first care workers cooperative owned and operated by carers. Founded in conjunction with Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) and funded under the European Social Funds Women’s Entrepreneurship Stream, the cooperative is led by skilled, experienced migrant women dedicated to providing quality home care. Owning and operating the business themselves means that workers can ensure good pay and good conditions.

In the introductory video on their site, they state that they employ “a sustainable model of community care. It puts both clients and carers first.” The co-op is also not-for-profit: “We invest back into the organisation, improving carers’ jobs by investing in training and contributing to pensions.”

From the Great Care Co-op page on MRCI’s site:

Setting up a worker-owned business seems like a natural solution to workplace exploitation, so for the last two years we have been working with a group of migrant women carers to develop a better model of home care based on excellent care and great jobs.

Sustainability is key to the cooperative’s not-for-profit model, as opposed to the current care system which is profit-driven:

The current care system is dominated by large profit-making businesses that prioritise profit over care and over carers. Staff turnover is high due to low pay and poor working conditions, which often results in inconsistent care for clients.

The cooperative pay carers €14.50 an hour, which is higher than the average rate of pay from other care agencies: “Because workers deserve to be paid enough so that they can provide for their families and give their children a good start in life.”

Community-based care

The model of care that the co-op bases their service on is holistic, community-based care. This means that carers work locally in their own community; they are familiar with local services and are able to keep their clients connected with these services. Carers take a client’s whole family and community network into account to keep them connected with the important aspects of their daily lives:

Working in self-managed teams of up to 12 carers in their neighbourhood allows carers to have more freedom and flexibility to respond to their client’s needs. It also gives carers more autonomy in their work.

The cooperative’s care model also draws on the Buurtzorg method. Developed in the Netherlands and now used 25 countries, this model “concentrates on combating isolation, helplessness and boredom through promoting and maintaining a person’s social roles, activities and independence.”
This method has also proven it can save up to 40% in care costs.

You can follow the Great Care Co-op on Twitter here: