Supporting community micro-enterprises through Covid 19

9 April 2020 · Categories: Communities Care, Opinions and responses, Wales

Heather Maling tells us about her work in rural Powys, supporting community micro-enterprises in lockdown. #brightlightsinadarkworld

“You never know how strong you are until being strong is your only choice” (Bob Marley)

I live in an area where the population of sheep outnumber the population of human beings, many times over. Here in rural Powys my nearest neighbours are over a mile away. I have worked in this area as an NHS community physiotherapist and have seen first-hand many of the challenges that life in Powys presents. We have a high proportion of older residents and often families live far away.  Powys is a popular place for people to retire to, especially if you enjoy the outdoors and peace and quiet. Many of these people are extremely resourceful and resilient, but life does throw challenges, none greater than what the world is experiencing right now.

I now work for Community Catalysts, an organisation that helps people across the country to use their talents to start and run small enterprises that support and care for people in their community. They help people live a good life, connected with and contributing to their community. I started as the local Catalyst in Powys in December and I have been linking with local people who would like to set up their own community micro-enterprise often working as a sole trader to provide help and support to local people. I was amazed at how quickly people heard about the project and got in touch (word of mouth in rural communities!)  and they are now delivering high quality care and support, enabling older people in Powys to live their lives in the way they choose.

The flooding in the early part of 2020 showed the importance of local care for local people, as our infrastructure took a battering, but this has now been overshadowed by Covid-19. As lockdown progresses, older people, are still facing the usual challenges which are not the result of the pandemic but magnified by the presence – falls, fractures, strokes, heart attacks, chest infections, the list is endless. Hospital admissions are inevitable until these conditions are stabilised.

Our established community micro-enterprises are rising to the challenge, enabling hospital discharges at an ever-increasing rate and able to support those in the villages where they live. The larger domiciliary care agencies often do not provide care in some of the most remote areas of the county and in the meantime, I am working with an increasing number of people wanting to set up their own enterprise. Some of these people were thinking about a change of direction before Covid-19 and some are using this time of stillness to re- evaluate their lives. Today one enterprise leader said: “This crisis has shown us who really are the key people are in our communities”.

Everywhere people are working differently, we meet on computer screens and our fears of technology are put to one side, we overcome our “British reserve”, reach out to strangers with our big asks.  Another local entrepreneur is keen to get involved with our project; she had posted on a Facebook group… “Hi, I’m self-employed, I work with people over the age of 70 and less able. Last Friday I lost all my work…so here I am free and happy to help in any way I can…I am fully insured, with a full DBS…”

I saw the message and got in touch, every day we have an online session and I send through information to ensure that the support offered will be of a high quality keeping all customers safe and well cared for.  All being well, this new community micro-entrepreneur will be available from next week, helping older people locally and, importantly, bring some sunshine into their lives.

by Heather Maling – Community Enterprise Catalyst (Powys)


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