Leading Lives co-operative commended as a model of employee ownership

Milly Gaskin of Leading Lives.

Milly Gaskin of Leading Lives. - Credit: Su Anderson

Suffolk social enterprise Leading Lives has received national recognition as a champion of employee ownership.

The Ipswich-based organisation was highly commended at the Philip Baxendale Awards, were held as part of the Employee Ownership Association’s conference in Nottingham to celebrate best practice in employee ownership.

Leading Lives received its commendation in the Employee Engagement Champion category, with its locality manager, Milly Gaskin, also receiving individual recognition for promoting employee ownership across the organisation.

The business, which employs a workforce of more than 500 and is a member of the EADT’s Suffolk Future50 listing of firms with high growth potential, provides social care support for 1,200 people, predominantly with learning disabilities, and their families across Suffolk.

It was created as a spin-out from Suffolk County Council, which previously provided the services in-house, and is now 100% owned by its employees.

It operates as a co-operative, being run by a board of elected staff members, including a number of front line workers.

Staff have to make a positive choice to become members by purchasing a £1 share. They undergo training to help them understand their responsibilities as members and how they can influence the running of the business, including entitlement to stand for election to the board.

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The award commendation recognises the work of Ms Gaskin, a former chair of the board, in researching and devising the governance model and developing the training programme for staff.

She said: ”I am delighted that we have been nationally recognised for the model we have developed here in Suffolk.

“We believe that employee ownership means staff take more responsibility for the running of the business and this impacts positively on performance – for example our sickness absence has reduced by 58% and staff turnover is reducing all the time as people make a positive commitment to buy into the values of the business.”