Defined as very small enterprises with five or fewer workers, micro-enterprises are organisations established and managed by local people, including those who are themselves disabled. They are viewed as particularly innovative as their personalised nature challenges traditional ways of providing social care. As a result, they have been promoted as part of the English government’s "personalisation" agenda. Yet there is little empirical evidence to support the benefits of micro-enterprises over larger care providers. This paper reports early findings of two year study evaluating the performance of micro-enterprises within adult social care in England, focusing in particular on the extent to which they are innovative. It draws on two data sources; an evidence review of non-traditional services and service users, and interviews with micro-enterprise staff and coordinators across three English case study sites. The paper reports that microenterprises do appear to be more innovative than larger care providers as they are able to provide more person-centred and targeted services. We argue that they display three types of innovation; who innovations (targeting non-traditional service users), what innovation (non-traditional services) and how innovations (more interaction and flexibility in care provision).
Keywords: Micro-enterprise, social care, personalisation, social innovation, England