Community enterprises – building capacity in Worcestershire

Featured article - 24 November 2016
By Sian Lockwood, Community Catalysts

Head-shot of the author, Sian Lockwood, Community Catalysts

Small, community-led services offer people a personalised, local form of care and support. At Community Catalysts, we see more councils recognising the value of community enterprises. Worcestershire County Council, for example, worked with us to develop a range of social care community enterprises as part of their transformation of services.

The results were dramatic.

Our local Community Catalyst - Chris Clarke – identified over 50 existing micro-enterprises in the county, and worked with them to adapt their services for people who need support. She also nurtured the development of 25 new enterprises and advised a further 41.

Worcestershire now has a directory of over 80 small, local services that social workers can refer people to, or local residents can contact directly. Between them these enterprises support over 1,800 older and disabled people to access training or develop life skills, take part in leisure activities, or receive personal care. They also employ over 140 local people, and use the skills of almost 280 local volunteers.

The key is to identify committed, talented individuals who really understand local needs – and to support them to thrive as a small business.

People like Denise who was determined to help to tackle loneliness – a problems she spotted amongst the many older people she met in her role at the Post Office. Following the closure of a local Age UK club, she decided to set up her own with support from local volunteers. Den’s Day Club in Bromsgrove now supports over 40 older people – including those with dementia - three days per week, providing opportunities to make new friends, have a cooked lunch and take part in activities. At just £25 per day, the club is cheaper than the average £60 per day for alternative services.

Improving outcomes for local people

Worcestershire’s community enterprises are thriving and the outcomes for local people are tangible. They now have real choice of high-quality supports options – a lot of which are co-designed and co-produced by the people who use them. Many people have found real friendships and seen an improvement in their physical and mental wellbeing, and they are getting better value for money.

As for the council, social workers and other advisers now see community enterprises as an option for people who have personal budgets and tell people about the opportunities available.

In these challenging times, I’d call that a win-win situation!

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