Independence Matters

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Independence Matters's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Independence Matters is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Support worker Suzanne
Warnes, winner of the National
Dementia Carer category at the
Great British Care Awards 2018
Non-Executive Stakeholder Director,
Sylvia Barrett-Jones (right) at Independence
Matters’ Harford Hill service
Independence Matters CIC is a “profit for a purpose”
social enterprise, owned mutually by its employees and
Norfolk County Council. Its customers and beneficiaries are
vulnerable adults across Norfolk. The company was created in
2013 as a local government spin-out led by Sarah Stock, now
Managing Director, and her senior leadership team, some of
whom continue to be executive directors. Operating largely
in the public sector, Independence Matters is an example of
government rolling back and inviting business into that space.
Establishing Independence Matters as a spin-out from Norfolk County Council
was a time of huge excitement, anticipation, hard work and sheer exhaustion.
My team and I went through a two-year due diligence process to demonstrate
we had the knowledge, expertise and ability to run the business. We were
elated when the company launched in 2013, but there were no guarantees
that we would be able to make it work. Five years later it continues to be an
amazing and liberating journey, enabling us to deliver great customer outcomes
and improved value for money. As a team we have seen our staff raise their
performance, increase productivity and rise to the challenge of “public sector
meets commercialsector”.
Our purpose is very simple: to empower people, their families and carers to live
fulfilling lives and remain independent. It was important that our business form
and behaviours aligned with this, as it adds value and creates energy within the
company. Staff were fully involved in the development of our name and values, and
I believe that together we have a created a strong, vibrant and relevant brand.
»Managing Director: SarahStock
»Established in 2013
»Based in Norfolk
»Services: Support for
vulnerable adults, including
those with learning disabilities,
dementia and mental health
»No. of employees: Over 800
»Provides supported living,
short break respite,
community hubs, home
care support, personal
assistants and a mental health
rehabilitation unit
»Offers employment
opportunities to disabled
people, including
manufacturing pet bedding
from recycled materials
Matters CIC
Highlighting best practice
Business form
From the start, it was vital that
we had the right legal status,
ownership structure and governance
arrangements in place to deliver
success for the company, our staff,
our customers and the communities
we serve. Customers today have high
expectations and increasingly want
locally delivered services with ethical
foundations. The legal form of the
company and board affects how
“centralised” or “decentralised” you
want your organisation to be.
As a community interest company
limited by shares, our ownership
structure reflects the value and
importance we place on our staff.
Employees own 51 per cent of the
shares, which are held collectively in an
employee benefit trust, and which we
do not trade.
The democratic process is important
to us and, prior to spin-out, we spent
time with John Lewis PLC learning
about their employee engagement
model. This led to the creation of two
groups: a staff advisory board to give
our employees a voice and connect
them to the business and a stakeholder
advisory board to represent the views
of customers and carers. Two members
from each board are voted onto the
main company board as directors and
contribute to the way Independence
Matters is run.
Our company board itself is diverse
with a strong commercial element. As
a business to consumer organisation,
we are similar in many ways to the
retail and hospitality sectors; that is,
we rely on our staff to deliver great
customer service and much of our
business is loyal repeat custom based
on both quality and word of mouth
When setting up the board, I
approached people from companies
that were successful in those sectors
and had strong social values, as well
as ethical business principles. Karen
Hester, the chief operating officer
at Adnams PLC, is currently our
I am proud of the fact that we are
running a successful business and
have many achievements to celebrate
over the last four years. Among them
1. Bringing business support functions
such as HR, L&D and finance in-
house to help us run the business
more efficiently.
Customers working in
the garden at Dereham
Community Hub
Matters CIC is
a ‘profit for a
2. Preparing for the digital consumer
by introducing an electronic
monitoring system and database, in
addition to embracing social media
and mobile working.
3. Achieving 13 Care Quality
Commission “good” ratings.
4. Facilitating ongoing success for
Norfolk industries and developing
award-winning new products
to support more people with
disabilities into employment.
5. Growth through acquisition with
the purchase of Breckland Care
at Home, a small and struggling
local care agency that matches our
6. Recognition for the quality of
care we deliver. For instance, an
employee, Suzanne Warnes, was
winner of the National Dementia
Carer Award 2018 and a further
four employees were shortlisted for
the regional Learning Disability &
Autism Awards 2018.
Our future
The future is exciting and full of
opportunities while also being
extremely challenging. Recruitment
and retention are a major challenge to
balancing the supply and demand issue
facing the social care sector. There
are increased regulatory pressures
coming from CQC, the introduction
of the national living wage and
apprenticeship levy, sleep-in backdated
payments due to HMRC interpretation
of regulations and, finally, GDPR
changes; these all contribute to
increased costs and are becoming
difficult to absorb within the business.
It is a myth that social enterprises are
“not for profit”. All businesses must
make a profit; the ethical part is about
how much profit margin you decide
to make and what you do with that
profit. At Independence Matters, all
profit goes back into the business,
ensuring we have good terms and
conditions for staff, and can invest
and improve our service offering and
support our communities.
I believe that social enterprises can
learn from the commercial sector,
which is generally more agile, responds
more quickly to changes in the market
and innovates to survive. Developing
services and products directly with
our customers means we can ensure
they remain person-centred and
responsive. We must also imagine how
we will deliver our service offering in
the digital and technological world of
Similarly, commercial businesses can
learn a lot from us in terms of adding
social value. As a social enterprise we
have a purpose, a set of values and a
business ownership structure which I
believe delivers value for money and
great outcomes for our customers.
The future is
exciting and
full of
while being
Jeremy packing pet
bedding products at
Norfolk Industries

This article was sponsored by Independence Matters. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister