Over 40 new care and support providers have set up enterprises in the county in the last year thanks to the Somerset County Council’s micro-enterprise project.
The project, delivered in partnership with Community Catalysts, encourages local people with a good idea or local solution to set up as a small enterprise. The aim is to give local people more choice over services that will help them when and where they need some support.
Small start-up and existing providers can get practical information from the project on everything from regulation to training and sources of funding. The project offers support, feedback, advice and signposting to help people establish a new venture or help existing enterprises. The project also supports enterprises with advertising, particularly on Somerset Choices: http://www.somersetchoices.org.uk
Rhys Davies, Project Co-ordinator at Community Catalysts, said: “When I started this project over a year ago I was anxious that I wouldn’t find anyone who’d want to set up their own care enterprise but I could not have been more wrong. I have spoken to over 150 people in the last year who’ve had an interest and helped 42 people set up as independent providers, with a focus on care and wellbeing. This is a fantastic achievement and shows just how innovative and up for it people in our local communities are.”
This week 30 community micro-providers got together at an event run by Community Catalysts. The event was a chance to celebrate the project’s first year and micro-providers participated in speed-networking with social workers, commissioners and other staff who help people chose care and support services
Rhys continued: “It was so powerful seeing these community micro-providers sat at the same table as social workers and commissioners. Despite the personalised nature of their services, micro-providers are rarely seen or heard, so it was great for them to be able to share their stories and be recognised for the flexible care and support they offer to the people in Somerset.
“Micro-providers can offer anything from home help and care at home to social groups and gardening services. All of which help people to stay independent and living in their own home.”
William Wallace, Cabinet Member for Adults Services, said: “The Care Act emphasises the need to give people more choice and control over their care, and we want to offer the widest possible choice to people with social care and support needs in Somerset. This project gives skilled individuals the tools they need to provide professional local services to meet the needs of local people.
“Since the project started our directory of micro-enterprises has grown to over 90 providers and we have seen an increase of 200 people taking up Direct Payments so that they can have more choice and control over their care.”
If you are interested in setting up, or are already running a small service which is local, independent and has less than five employees or volunteers please contact Rhys on 07595 411 945 or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Care and support providers can advertise their services for free on a new website called Somerset Choices. People can use the website to search for services in their local area and choose the care they want. To find out more about Somerset Choices and to advertise services visit: http://www.somersetchoices.org.uk
Quotes from small micro-providers that attended the event this week are below:
Kris Scotting runs therapeutic gardening sessions, he said: “The micro-enterprise project has helped me get started and make connections. The event has been really great. I’ve had a chance to network with social workers and get the message out about what we offer.”
Julie Jones runs ‘Girl Friday Direct’ to help people get out and enjoy life, she said: “I organise day trips, go to cafes, attend pottery classes or simply do some cooking at home with my clients to help them enjoy life. I really love what I do and I learn an awful lot from the people I help support.
“I’d been thinking of setting up as a micro-provider for a while, this project gave me the push I needed and guided me through the process of setting myself up as a provider. The event has been really helpful, it has been fantastic to meet other providers who have innovative ideas and meet social workers – hopefully they will think of me when they are planning care packages and can see how my services can benefit people.”
Caroline Webb runs ‘Bee Independent’ that helps match people with local carers, people can view profiles of carers and make an informed choice, she said: “I thought of this idea a few years ago and the micro-enterprise project has given me what I need to make it happen and make it work. It has been a really good event and I was pleased to tell people what I am doing. I hope there will be another event soon.”
Becky Wright runs ‘Community Life Design CIC’ a counselling service for people with learning disabilities based in Taunton, she said: “The micro-provider project has enabled us to meet other sole traders and small business owners. The project has given us the opportunity to meet local commissioners and social workers and talk about our services. It has also allowed us to understand the specific needs of referral services. The event was full of energy and positivity which is what we need as providers and a chance to connect and network with others.”