Social enterprise: A model of recovery and social inclusion for occupational therapy practice in the UK

Anna Stickley, Kelly Hall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
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Occupational therapists are increasingly working in organisations outside of the public sector. UK government policy over the past decade has promoted health and social care provision by social enterprises. The purpose of this paper is to examine the compatibility of occupational therapy practice and a social enterprise environment, within the UK and questions if this approach may enhance experiences of social inclusion for people who use these services.

Case study methodology was used with eight social enterprises in the UK. Data were collected through: semi-structured interviews, formal organisational documents, and field visits and observations. Interviews were conducted with 26 participants who were occupational therapists, service users and social entrepreneurs/managers. The interviews were recorded, transcribed and analysed using thematic analysis.

Occupational therapists experienced job satisfaction, professional autonomy and were able to practise according to their professional philosophy. Service users valued support with: employment, routine, social relationships, and developing a sense of identity, particularly outside of a medical model definition. To a degree therefore, people using these services claimed socially inclusive benefits. Challenges with funding social enterprises, however, impacted occupational therapy delivery in some cases.

Research limitations/implications
The majority of social enterprise research is drawn from case study methodology; however, this was the most appropriate research design to gain greatest insight into a small but developing phenomenon. Further research into occupational therapy practice within social enterprises is required, particularly on the effectiveness of returning to work and social inclusion.

Social implications
Social enterprises can provide therapeutic environments to promote recovery and social inclusion which is also compatible with occupational therapy practice.

This is the first known national research into occupational therapy provision in social enterprises within the UK, which evidences a compatibility within occupational therapy practice within a social enterprise environment and the benefits of this.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)91-101
JournalMental Health and Social Inclusion
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Social enterprise
  • Social inclusion
  • Recovery
  • Occupational therapy


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