Essex county council’s new social care trading company could earn the authority upwards of £3m a year in dividends and may take over the running of some local primary care trust services, bosses have revealed.

The county has transferred 850 staff to Essex Cares this year and expects to deliver services more closely in touch with the social care personalisation agenda to both council-supported and self-funded residents.

Group managing director Mike Walsh said the company had submitted a declaration of interest to South West Essex PCT, which is currently putting its provider services out to tender, and could offer services across county borders.

He said it was also expected to return dividends of around 10 per cent of its annual turnover – currently estimated to be around £30m – to sole shareholder Essex CC.

As the country’s first social care based local authority trading company, Essex Cares will combine the council’s former community support services – including day care, domiciliary care and re-ablement services - and the county’s former equipment service.

It also includes employment and inclusion services for people with learning disabilities.

Mr Walsh said local authority trading company status gave Essex Cares more flexibility to market its services in addition to catering to its current 10,000 service users, leaving the council with a “commissioning based” role.

“It’s very similar to a social-enterprise model - it allows us to do is to trade by being outside the council,” he said.

Liz Chidgey, the county’s deputy executive director for adults, health and community wellbeing, said Essex Cares’ contract would initially be for three years and would offer an “excellent opportunity” to investigate ways traditional service boundaries could be broken down.

“I don’t think it’s going to be the answer to everything, but it is a great way to test and shape the market,” she said.

Andrew Cozens, strategic adviser for children, adults and health services at the Improvement and Development Agency, described the move as “a very interesting development” and as innovative as Hampshire CC’s construction of nursing homes to head-off bed-blocking problems earlier in the decade.

From Local Government Chronicle.