Social enterprises are stepping up to the COVID-19 challenge and putting the ‘social’ into social isolation.
How does a bespoke travel enterprise for families coping with dementia survive as travel itself stops? And how does it continue to help its clients in social isolation?
MindForYou, based in Leicestershire, provides specialist holidays for people living with dementia and their families across the UK. It was founded by Carol Sargant in 2014 after her mother was diagnosed with dementia. This week marks five years since they took their first guests on holiday to Norfolk.
“Why I set up ‘MindforYou’ was based on my personal journey supporting my Mum with dementia and my Dad, her full-time carer. I had a desire to enable families living with dementia to continue to do the things they enjoyed, which for us was holidays,” Carol said, who gave up a career as a scientist to set up the social enterprise. “Dementia changes everything. For me to make a difference, I wanted to offer services that would make the most impact on both my mum and dad.”
“The startling statistic I found while setting up MindforYou was that family carers of people with dementia often die sadly before the person with dementia.” Indeed, Carol’s Dad died after eight years of caring for his wife, a month after being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Carol said, “I know my Dad would have gone and seen a doctor sooner had he not been caring and worrying about my Mum more than himself”.
Key Fund, a leading social investor in the North, supported Carol’s vision and gave a £21k loan to help her start the business, with follow-on investment to expand. MindforYou has since hosted 1,000 people on specialist holidays, and Carol’s daughter Emma has joined the family business.
MindforYou is an ‘emotional legacy’ to Carol’s parents, with her Mum, Liz, passing away in June last year. Based on Carol’s scientific background, MindforYou have investigated the social impact of their specialist holidays. They found 58% of the carers going on their holiday could be considered clinically depressed as evaluated by the Geriatric Depression Scale. After experiencing just one MindforYou specialist holiday, this statistic was reduced by 40%.
Carol said: “Having to close our holidays indefinitely due to COVID-19, the first thing we worried about was our clients. Their needs haven’t gone away, if anything they are enhanced. It made me think of the kinds of things I would have been doing to help my parents at this difficult time. MindforYou brainstormed various ideas and decided if we couldn’t take people on holiday then we would take our Holiday Activities into their homes using ZOOM video calling and created the Joy Inside event programme.”
The Joy Inside invites up to six households living with dementia to book scheduled themed events on Zoom, which bring the activities MindforYou normally host on their bespoke holidays into their clients’ homes. Themes include comedy, cooking and gardening, with themed quizzes, short films, reminisces and activities designed to foster connection and fun. The Team offer technical support along with instructions especially developed for clients to help them experience The Joy Inside, but also open up a whole new world of social activity in the confines of their home.
MindforYou is just one example of how a social enterprise is adapting to meet a need in the community.
According to Matt Smith, CEO of Key Fund, social enterprises are ‘powerfully placed’ to respond to the social and financial fall-out of Covid-19.
Matt said: “Social enterprises are simply businesses that trade for good and reinvest profits into their charitable mission. The model supports local people to take control of the issues that matter to them – these people are working at the coalface of their communities, offering very real solutions to endemic problems. Over the years, this movement has grown and is now at the forefront of tackling society’s biggest challenges, from homelessness, addiction, loneliness, poverty and inequality to the environment, with community-led green energy schemes, projects tackling food waste, and recycling enterprises.”
Social entrepreneurs are often driven by personal experience that motivate them to help others.
Matt said: “One of the big challenges particular to social enterprises is the fact that as need goes up, staff can’t meet that need because the only commercial option is to furlough. But social entrepreneurs can’t walk away. Their reason for existing, their driving force, is to deliver a service to those who need it most. As such, they’re finding innovative ways to support their clients at this time.”
In 2018, social enterprises were estimated to contribute £60bn a year to the UK economy.
Matt added: “Social enterprise has become integral to delivering key services to society as well as generating some 2 million jobs in the UK. Post Covid-19, these passionate social businesses will be needed more than ever, and I think there is a renewed appetite to support businesses that are not just about profit but put people and the planet first.”
To find out more about Mind For You and the Joy Inside programme, click here.
For information on social enterprise, funding, and COVID-19 support for the sector, visit the Key Fund website.
Photo shows Carol Sargant