Social enterprise plays important role in independence

Posted on: 24 March 2017

Local social enterprises are playing an important role in helping people stay independent and active in their local communities, says Devon County Council.

NHS and local council-funded health and social care is just one type of support helping people to stay living in their own homes in Devon, says the Council.  But alongside that there’s a much broader spread of ‘third sector’ groups – local community groups, voluntary sector groups, charities and social enterprises – providing support to significantly higher numbers of people on a daily basis.

Social enterprises are providing community-based care and support to people in Devon in many different ways.

“We’ve always been interested in the link between the formal social care for the most vulnerable people, for which we’re responsible, at the one end, and the much wider availability of universal support for everyone in local communities at the other end,” says Cllr Barker, the Council’s Cabinet Member with responsibility for adult social care.

“Although there’s sometimes distinction made between them, the goals are essentially the same; namely to help people retain independence, and to feel able, active, self-motivated, confident  and engaged as much as possible in their local communities.”

Such services often support people’s independence, but unlike most formal social care, a lot of social enterprises – businesses that reinvest profits into their services – are providing services that are ‘unregulated’, meaning that  they’re not regulated by the Care Quality Commission.

They might be organising group classes such as cookery, photography, or for other hobbies and interests; or groups that are specific to people with certain needs, for example people who have experienced a stroke or head injury.  Or they might be providing one to one support in people’s homes, helping make lunch, or help with shopping.

Because they’re not driven by profit, it means the social enterprises can often be more imaginative in the way they work, operating with a social purpose.

“Both the formal services and the universal services run alongside each other, and sometimes people receive or attend both types of support,” says Cllr Barker.

“That’s why we try to support third sector social enterprises in their work where we can to help maximise people’s independence.”

The Council provides support in different ways to third sector enterprises, through advice, guidance and training.  One such initiative is The FILO Project, which the council has worked closely with for a while.

The FILO Project provides people with early to moderate dementia the opportunity to socialise in a manageable environment.  It’s aimed specifically at people who, through their dementia, may have lost their confidence and become socially isolated.

It’s different to a traditional day centre service in that it’s a network of homes across Devon that uses employed and trained ‘hosts’ to provide the day care service to small groups of people, typically four in number.

Liz Dennis from the Project, said:

“The welcoming home setting is a key component to the success of the service, but there’s much more besides.

“Over time the host and other group members, the intimate environment, the journey, all become familiar to clients. The repetition of each of these elements on a weekly basis, or more, means that clients, for whom life can often feel disorienting, begin to feel a little more ‘grounded.’”

Hosts employed by the Project are carefully selected, referenced, subject to DBS clearance, and are suitably trained.

Tim Brake from East Devon, whose step-mother attended the service, said:

“I want to take this opportunity of saying a heart-felt “thank you” to all those at The Filo Project who have been directly involved in the care and support provided to my step-mother for the past year. Without it there’s absolutely no doubt she would not have been able to extend her independent lifestyle for as long as she has, and I know she’s really enjoyed being “out with her friends” whenever she’s been on her days away!’

“That’s a great example of a project that is based around the individual,” says Cllr Barker.  “It’s targeted.  It focuses on what the person can do – their strengths – and encourages people to retain and possibly regain their ability to do day to day tasks, and it’s possible in most cases to see an improvement in a person’s ability or general wellbeing.

“The home environment is the obvious difference to a traditional day centre, and for people for whom it’s aimed at helping, it’s the familiarity of the home setting that helps it work.

“Often someone will approach Devon County Council for advice or guidance about a social care situation that they, or their relative or friend is experiencing, and often there will be a solution in the form of a local group,” says Cllr Barker.

“Everyone who is eligible for a care service from us will receive support – that’s given –  but we will also signpost people to other community-based services that can help their situation.  Devon’s communities are well served by local groups, and we will continue to support them.”

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