Allied Health Professionals

Working within a Social Enterprise

Liz Ruane, Occupational Therapist and Allied Health Professional (AHP), shares her reflections of working in a social enterprise.


What’s your role and where do you work?

I work as a Professional Therapy Lead working within Locala, a social enterprise in West Yorkshire. I’m an Occupational Therapist by background and have predominantly worked in the community setting and within intermediate care services.

What is a social enterprise?

We are often asked what a social enterprise is, and I’ve found the best way to describe it is, that they are like a traditional business but it’s what they do with any surplus that sets them apart – they are reinvested back into the organisation or into the community to create positive social change.

This means we can tackle social problems, health inequalities, improve people’s life chances, provide training and employment opportunities, support communities and help the environment.

What is a Social Enterprise?

What have the benefits been as an employee?

I’ve been able to recognise and feel the benefits of working within a social enterprise as an employee. All colleagues are stakeholders in the organisation which means we all have a voice and are able to influence how the organisation operates; this is a significant difference to the structure of traditional NHS Trusts.

We have a Members Council where colleagues, are represented, including a Colleague Board Member, who raise the issues at Board level which matter to us as a workforce and as clinicians to ensure our voice is heard. This is a fantastic opportunity to be involved in areas such as budget setting, contributing to key strategies, and agreeing colleague awards.

We also have community members, these are people who live in the areas where we provide services and want to have a say in how their healthcare is provided. They can put themselves forward for our Members Council or support us by attending events, taking part in our Readers Panel, focus groups and quality improvement work.

What do you enjoy most about working in a social enterprise?

There’s a clear and strong focus on social value, with the organisation committed to supporting many community programmes that are both meaningful to colleagues as well as the local community.

These can be large scale projects as well as smaller grants from our Community Fund – colleagues can have a say on how these funds are allocated.

Another positive is that colleagues are encouraged to get involved in local volunteering programmes and are given 3 days a year to take part in the programme.

All colleagues are stakeholders in the organisation which means we all have a voice and are able to influence how the organisation operates

What support do you receive as an employee?

It really feels like colleagues are very much at the heart of the organisation, we have access to wellbeing funds and initiatives to support colleagues, this comes from being a social enterprise and having more flexibility on how our finances are allocated.

From my experience, this creates freedom to focus on innovation, embrace the use of technology and support colleagues to work flexibly. There is opportunity to work collaboratively with different partners, including strong connections with the third sector to deliver patient care.

How are the approaches of social enterprises and AHPs linked?

For me, the vision and values of social enterprises and allied health professionals are closely aligned in terms of social justice and value through engagement of local people in strategies and in services that will make a difference to them.

Occupational Therapy

Liz who has shared her experience in this article is an Occupational Therapist. If you want to find out more about the role of an Occupational Therapist and the various settings and services they can work in, take a look at our roles pages.

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