Impact of Covid and the importance of community anchors
The latest Power to Change Community Business Market Report 2021 found that community businesses saw an increase in demand for their services during the pandemic, particularly in mental health support, financial advice, health and social care and food provision. Three in five community businesses reported that they began offering services remotely or developed new activities to meet local needs such as delivering food to local people. 75% now offer more than 1 service to their community.
The impact of Covid and reflections from the Market Report were all clear to see when I visited Telford and Wrekin recently, to meet community anchors – a type of community business connecting people together by providing activities from a building they own or manage and building links with other services. The community anchors I met in Telford and Wrekin were supported by Community Catalysts between 2017-2019.
Sutton Hill Community Trust
Sutton Hill Community Trust, formed in 2016 when the building, now known as the ‘Hub on the Hill’ was transferred into community ownership. The ‘Hub’ is a responsive, aspirational community business and was created as a place where ‘everyone matters’. In this video, CEO Terry Yarnell talks about setting up the ‘Hub’ and the ethos behind it.
Since the pandemic, the ‘Hub’s’ charity shop has been converted into a new shop selling affordable food. The shop also provides job opportunities for young people on the Kickstart scheme to gain valuable work experience and develop their skills.
A new Wellbeing Co-ordinator has been recruited to expand ‘Sutton Hill Cares’ which offers care or support to local people. Using a grant from the Reach Fund, they will explore whether to go for CQC registration to enable them to expand their current offer to include things like help with washing or dressing and medication etc.
Another great example of the difference that buildings can make when they are moved into the hands of the community is The Anstice, a Grade II listed building which includes a café, community hall and library. Despite Covid, demand for space and their plans to deliver health and wellbeing activities has outstripped the space available in the current building so they’re already looking to expand and transform empty spaces to further benefit the local community.
Hollinswood and Randlay Parish Council
Last but not least, I met Katrina Baker from Hollinswood and Randlay Parish Council. Community Catalysts originally helped to establish S.N.A.C.@HARP (Special Needs Activity Centre) for families with children. S.N.A.C@HARP runs from the Parish Council’s Pavilion with the support of Katrina who has attended SEND training and other courses to best support the group. Katrina told me:
Community Catalysts helped us make it real by bringing families together, listening and then helped find a way to bring SNAC alive. The Parish Council is a grassroots organisation, here to support people in any way they need. I feel like I am making a difference in lots of ways now.
…And Katrina certainly is! Funding has been secured in partnership with Telford & Wrekin Council for a youth worker to support SNAC and help it integrate with other local youth activities. Katrina is also busy opening up the Pavilion and working with the Parish Council on a life skills programme for people who have moved onto the estate who may have been through the criminal justice system or faced homelessness. The programme will also offer intergenerational activities.
Community businesses act as community anchors to make a difference
It was great to get away from the desk and see the value of community businesses acting as community anchors within their neighbourhood. The determination and commitment of people to adapt and respond so quickly, and creatively, to needs as they arise, is amazing. Sustainability will always be a challenge, but as the Community Business Market Report highlights – the hard work and stress is worth it, for the impact on individuals, plus the impact in raising community pride and showing what can be achieved when people pull together.
Want to join the conversation? Get in touch…
We’re really keen to learn from and connect with, more community businesses, particularly those who offer care or support to people within their communities. If you want to join the conversation, please get in touch at: firstname.lastname@example.org
You might also be interested in:
- Blog: Uncovering the potential of community businesses in health and care
- Video: Andy Taylor from Wigan and Leigh Cooperative chats to us about what community businesses are
- Report: Business case supporting the development of community businesses