Almost 300 community micro-enterprises now operating across Somerset

Three years on and now almost 300 community micro-enterprises are operating across the county to support people to live independently at home.

Somerset County Council, St Margaret’s Hospice and the Somerset Community Foundation have worked with the social enterprise Community Catalysts to deliver a project that helps people with good ideas to set up a very small help, care or support service.

Now 3,500 hours of care are delivered each week by these local micro-enterprises who offer a flexible alternative to traditional services.

In 2014 the County Council recognised that people did not have enough choice and control when selecting care and support services to help them live at home. To tackle the issue the Council kick started this innovative and forward-thinking project to grow more local, community based carers to support people to stay independent at home.

The project provides small start-ups and existing providers with practical information on everything from regulation to training and sources of funding. As well as offering support, feedback, advice and signposting people to help on how to establish a new venture or grow an existing enterprise.

Since the project started 471 enquiries from local Somerset people interested in running a community micro-enterprise have been received. 179 new community micro-enterprises have set up to deliver care to people at home offering anything from end of life care to dog walking and home help services.  Plus an additional 96 established community micro-enterprises have been identified, engaged and supported.

Cllr David Huxtable, Cabinet Member for Adults Services at Somerset County Council, said: “Local community micro-enterprises are filling a gap in the care market and giving people the option to have a flexible, local, independent carer who can meet their needs and help them stay independent.

“800 people are now supported by community micro-enterprises in Somerset, including older people, people with a mental or physical illness and disabled people. These people are now well-supported at home by carers from their neighbourhood which means they can stay at home for longer and they are well connected to their community, contributing to avoiding loneliness.”

Rhys Davies from Community Catalysts, said: “We want people wherever they live in Somerset to get the help they need to lead a good life. The project has shown how we can release people’s capacity to care through working with the energy and talent that already exists. By giving local people the right tools, support and a little bit of confidence we can offer other local people a real choice of personalised, high quality services and support.”

Tim receives support from a micro-enterprise, he said: “The micro-provider we have used was kind, caring, consistent and considerate. She went the extra mile every time she visited. She always made sure she had plenty of time for visits and would ‘pop’ in when requested by us. I can’t recommend her enough.”

Vanessa, receives support from a micro-enterprise to look after her husband, she said: “My husband Gerry wanted to die at home. This was only possible with the support of micro-providers. They gave us the opportunity to take control of his care without the stress. They come at times to suit us, are local, they do exactly what they are supposed to do plus more. They go that extra couple of miles and we love them to bits…We had a provider who takes us to appointments, we have even had providers sleep on an airbed on the floor in an emergency. I can’t explain the difference this made. They are more like friends now.”

If you would like to find out more about your local network of micro-providers please contact Rhys Davies from Community Catalyst on 07595 411 945 or by email: rhys.davies@communitycatalysts.co.uk