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Heather at Home

Heather McMillan is a mental health social worker who with help from Community Catalysts set up ‘Heather at Home’ a home help and support service in the small town of South Petherton, Somerset.

Heather shared her story with us…..

Where did the idea for Heather at Home come from?

I had just moved jobs and started working with older people with mental health issues and was shocked by the lack of community services for them. In some villages we struggled to get the basics such as a sitting service or a little bit of care. It got to the point where I dreaded visiting people because I knew the supports that they needed were not there and for me that is not what social work is about. . So that’s what got me really thinking about what I can do…

What was the first step?

At the start in my mind was ‘I don’t really know if I can do that’ or ‘there is too much involved’ or ‘I don’t know if I want to be my own boss’.  But I called Rhys at Community Catalysts, who was very calming, reassuring and talked me through the process. So I thought, well maybe I will give it a go and it could give me an opportunity to make a difference and earn a little bit of pin money.

What is your service?

I originally set up just to provide domestic help.  I decided not to do personal care but I wanted to help people who felt isolated, to get them out and about. This could be anything domestic help, shopping, companionship, sitting service etc.

How has it gone?

It went really well and I haven’t looked back.  I feel quite proud, I feel that I am going back to what’s important.

It is really exciting, but it has also made realise as a social worker how much as a profession had lost touch with our communities. I must admit to feeling really ashamed at this. There is a lot of good work going on out there by lots of little, fairly small organisations and we are just not aware of them.

Heather co-ordinates the ‘South Petherton Care Co-operative’ a local collective of Micro-providers and has been commissioned by the parish council to act as a ‘link worker’  working with the South Petherton Community Partnership helping people and professionals join the dots between health, care and community services.