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Strengthening local economies and creating choice

30 November 2020 · Categories: Communities Care, Opinions and responses, Reports and articles

In our latest blog Sian Lockwood, Community Catalysts reflects on how, despite Covid, community enterprises have continued to flourish, strengthening local communities and creating real choice.

In recent months, we’ve all seen local people in communities up and down the country thrown into the spotlight as they’ve stepped in to help other local people through the pandemic. For us at Community Catalysts, it’s been a delight to see this general recognition of the amazing impact local people can have. Since setting up our own social enterprise 10 years ago, we’ve had the privilege of nurturing and supporting many thousands of community-spirited people to set up their own small community enterprises and ventures offering help to people in their neighbourhood. We know the impact that they have on the wellbeing of friends and neighbours and on their community.

The community enterprises that we support have been shown to have particularly positive impacts on rural economies where a lack of local job opportunities is often accompanied by large unmet demand for care and support. By harnessing the tight knit sense of community apparent in rural areas and meshing this with the need for creative care options, we’ve helped thousands of community enterprises to become established and thrive, creating good local jobs and helping public money stay local for longer.

Just like Heather from ‘Helping Hands’ in rural Dorset, who recently decided she wanted to set up an enterprise to help people in her community after closing her office furniture business. Heather saw a poster advertising the Community Catalysts’ enterprise development programme in her local farm shop/post office and got in touch with our local Catalyst. She helped Heather set up Helping Hands which offers the kind of practical help and support that Heather knew older people needed from her time helping her own parents.

We tailor our support to each person. People in rural areas find themselves isolated and alone for many reasons.  Without their own transport, people welcome an accompanied trip  to appointments, to shops, garden centres, tea rooms and local attractions.  Following a spell in hospital people have gained confidence again with accompanied walks, help to plan and cook meals, and having visits to friends and family members.

Heather from Helping Hands

Although the COVID lockdown did see some customers cut back on social visits, the numbers of people wanting her support has been steadily increasing throughout the year. There are now 4 members of staff working with Heather. She recognises their wealth of knowledge and expertise and pays them accordingly.

Vicky is also from rural Dorset. She previously worked in formal care settings and became self-employed as ‘A Caring Carer’ through the Community Catalysts’ programme. After putting up flyers in local village shops she managed to secure her first customer and word spread from there.

[My first customer has] a large network of people that she knows and has been helping me to network my business by talking to others that may need domiciliary care. So, 4 weeks down the line, I had enough care hours to finish my previous job and transfer over to being a micro provider full time.

Vicky from A Caring Carer

As a recent report from the New Economic Foundation showed, community enterprise is a channel through which people in rural areas can gain good local jobs, which are properly paid and have the flexibility people need to fit work in with other responsibilities and interests. But perhaps most importantly people can provide supports and services which they know are needed and valued and so give back to their community. Alongside this, people looking for care and support can get it from local people in their neighbourhood who are able to provide the consistency, reliability and flexibility they need to live the life they want.

But as this recent report from Birmingham University showed this doesn’t just happen by chance. Local people with talent and a desire to give back often need tailored help to create their own sustainable, legal and high-quality enterprise. And as pockets of community enterprises develop, they need support to collaborate and network with each other, not only creating a community within a community but developing a sustainable and robust self-employed workforce of people helping people, driving rural economies forward.

As market shapers, local authorities have a crucial role to play in setting a direction for social care and in strengthening local rural economies. They can let services continue to develop in a way that takes money out of their area and delivers inconsistent care and poor-quality care jobs, or they can intervene.

A small but growing number of local authorities have recognised the potential of the social care sector to drive a bottom-up rejuvenation of rural communities and the economies that serve them. They are investing in help to support the spread of community-led enterprises and businesses that want to help other people in their neighbourhood and make their community a better place to live.

Any local authority wondering how to promote these models in their own social care sector can look sideways to learn from other local authorities on the same journey…

New Economic Foundation

…Or of course they could talk to us here at Community Catalysts:

Blog also published by the Rural Services Network.

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