Wishing Somerset County Council the best of luck with their MJ Local Government Award nomination

16 September 2021 · Categories: Awards, Communities Care

We are delighted to see that Somerset County Council has made it to this year’s final of the MJ Local Government Achievement Awards which celebrate the best in local government. When we heard the Somerset Community Micro-enterprise programme had been identified as a finalist in the ‘delivering better outcomes’ award category we reflected over our partnership with Somerset County Council and how it all started in 2014…

…We were starting a new programme of support with Somerset County Council to develop community micro-enterprises in the County – local people running their own enterprises to help other local people – and I’d travelled down to Taunton to recruit a local Catalyst to lead the programme.

This started out as a standard 2-year contract with Somerset County Council…Little did we know how revolutionary this particularly contract would be!!!

Filling the role

We had a great pool of people to interview over two full days, but Rhys Davies stood out by far and took on the role as our local Catalyst, a complex and varied role that:

  • A community enterprise leader supporting someone to get out and aboutunlocks the passion of local people and helps them to see how they can use their talents and skills to help others to live a good life
  • demystifies the world of regulation and legislation
  • ensures quality is built in from the start to enable enterprise leaders to provide great support
  • helps create high quality jobs that are more inclusive, contribute to the local economy and form an important part of the health and care sector.

Getting the community micro-enterprise programme up and running

- Fields and trees showing the rurality of SomersetAfter our usual induction, commissioners identified that the greatest demand for care was in the south and west of Somerset – the most rural areas of the county with the highest average age across the whole country! The rurality meant traditional home care services were not able to offer affordable options.

I didn’t quite realise how rural the county was until a car journey to a meeting with Rhys took about an hour – we only saw tractors and sheep!

Rhys hit the ground running with our Community Catalysts’ approach, tools and resources and we worked together with council colleagues and other partners to ensure that all the right ingredients were in place for success.

Creating the conditions for community micro-enterprises to thrive

Independent tiny enterprises run by individuals far away from framework agreements can be overlooked by frontline staff, commissioners, and funders so we ran workshops with social workers to bring them along on our journey. We also worked with Direct Payments leads to ensure that money could flow from the council to the person and then ultimately to the enterprise leader.

Rhys is an amazing connector and worked closely with Village Agents who knew people in the local communities who could run their own community micro-enterprise, as well as people who could benefit from a bit of extra care or support from someone local to them.

Rhys quickly developed his first groups of enterprise leaders and we brought them together with social workers in a number of energetic and engaging speed networking events. The events brought the project to life and created all sorts of new connections which have continued to develop from there.

Leaving a lasting impact

Our contract was extended for another 2 years and during this time we increased the number of networks for community micro-enterprises and developed a code of conduct for them to work to.

After 4 years Rhys became a fully-fledged member of Somerset County Council but we remained connected and shared learning … Roll on 7 years and it is staggering to see the success of this truly embedded approach.

Stephen Chandler – the then Director of Adult Social Services (DASS) at Somerset County Council – always saw the model as mainstream, not an add on or “a nice to have” and this was a key factor to success…now there are 16 networks across Somerset with 867 community micro-enterprises within them, providing 25,000 hours of care per week across a whole range of support.

This success does not happen overnight – it really is a journey that takes time and support from all levels…but the results are well worth it!

All of us at Community Catalysts wish Rhys, the community micro-enterprises and the team at Somerset County Council the best of luck at the MJ Awards. We will be watching with bated breath on September 17th when the winners are announced.

By Helen Allen – Operations Manager (Community Enterprise)

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