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The power of small

27 October 2020 · Categories: Communities Care, Opinions and responses

A few weeks ago, I saw this fascinating chart from Skills for Care and I have to say it blew my mind just a bit.

For 10 years my organisation, Community Catalysts, has been nurturing very small, creative, enterprises within the health and care sectors. We talk about helping local people to help other local people. We talk about place based, community rooted care. We talk about the creativity that happens when care and health services and supports are enabled…or in reality – allowed to step out of the status quo.

As we make this case, to commissioners and strategic decision makers, we often find ourselves as outsiders, making the case for something that might seem out there and a bit strange. We get challenged on the quality of these small care ‘providers’, especially if they are not regulatable by the Care Quality Commission. From experience we know that good and bad quality has nothing to with size, and (sadly) is not assured by regulation. We see awful, regulated providers of all sizes and that really worries us – worries us more than the thought of the little guys breaking the mould if I am honest.

Anyway I digress – the main point I am trying to make is that in all the conversations we represent small or micro care providers as niche – believing that huge, often corporate providers are the major players who represent the status quo. Then I spotted the chart and the fact that micro-organisations, employing between 1 and 4 workers, make up 38% of the social care sector and those employing less than 10 workers increase that to 52%. Organisations employing more than a 100 workers make up just 6% of the sector. Wow.

So, the little guys are in fact the majority, not the minority – not peripheral at all.

We support these little guys every day, across the UK in places from Oxfordshire to Powys. We know that far from creating the challenges we are always quizzed on, they show us the answers. Their creativity and energy and, dare I say it, humanity shines through – with a light that might be just what is needed in some of the dark corners of our sector.

Last month we ran 2 events – our first stab at both a national gathering and an online one at that – with over 300 delegates. We called it Passionate People: Positive Difference and used it to showcase the amazing work of some of these tiny (majority!) enterprises and the councils and PCNs and others who are championing this quiet revolution.

We heard from public sector folks like Joe Micheli in York, Martin Heuter in Powys and Ian Hanton in Central Bedfordshire, all visionary creative commissioners investing energy into community led approaches to social care. All seeing the real value that small and micro enterprises can bring.

We had a vision to deliver a new model that was about the city becoming more caring, more connected, more passionate [with] public sector professionals acting with more humility, love and care in their duties…

Joe Micheli

We heard from creative GP and PCN Clinical Director Simon Lenanne, who has supported the development of a small community organisation in his town of Ross on Wye aiming to tackle local challenges through local partnerships.

A lot of stuff I see as a GP is around housing or benefits. Loneliness being the major thing we deal with [and] disconnection from society…As a GP I’m one of the only people that some people know. Sometimes people are coming to see me with a medical problems and it isn’t necessarily medical, it might be they’re just reaching out for human connection

Simon Lenanne

We also heard from loads of people who are leading small initiatives and enterprises in their local community – showing clearly how, with the right support and conditions, local people can help other local people in ways that work well for everyone – and that challenge the social care status quo

We wanted to set up a support group helping carers and former carers in Herefordshire to be more creative, so that would improve their mental health and make them more resilient and in turn help them cope with their caring role…quite early on we had lots of support from other community groups, including Community Catalysts…there’s already a lot of support out there but it’s about making the connections

Lisa Woakes – Co-founder of Rejuvenate!

So what has all this taught us? I think that once we had got over the fact that our little bit of the social care world wasn’t actually that niche after all we began to reflect. Hearing from all those passionate people who are making a positive difference we began to wonder – could these tiny local, community rooted enterprises and ventures be a more powerful force than we had ever realised? Are they the answer to many of the huge and pressing challenges currently facing our sector?

Oh for everyone to really realise the power of small!

By Angela Catley – Director of Development


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