New Models of Care in Somerset – The Community Catalyst Approach

Since 2007 social enterprise Community Catalysts has worked across more than 40 areas of the UK to try to make sure that people who need care and support to live their lives can get that help in ways, times and places that suit them, with real choice of attractive local options. We help local people use their energies and talents to deliver services and supports. These community enterprises and ventures provide much more choice for people needing care and support.

The Community Catalysts approach can be tailored to fit the needs of any area and our current work in partnership with Somerset County Council is a good example. Since October 2014 we have been helping local people develop enterprises that provide support that older people need to stay at home. We have been working in some of the most rural areas of the county where traditional domiciliary care and other ‘home help’ agencies do not operate.

Over 18 months our local catalyst Rhys Davies has supported the development of 76 brand new ‘start-up’ enterprises and advised a further 36. The result is a directory of over a 100 services and supports that social workers can refer to and / or people and their families can contact directly. Between them, these enterprises are supporting 500 older people and provide employment opportunities for 150 local people.

Where it is working: Vanessa and Gerry

Gerry is living with advanced Lewy Body Dementia and requires 24 hour care. Vanessa his wife has cancer and has recently broken her arm. The family has opted to take a Direct Payment and receive a combined care budget of £530 per week. This covers the cost of care for both Gerry and Vanessa. The couple uses their budget imaginatively, getting some help from family and friends and buying services from four local community micro-providers. The family also receives regular input from community nurses, the GP and volunteers from St Margaret’s Hospice. See here for a short video of Vanessa and one of the community entrepreneurs who provide support to the couple.


The approach taken by Vanessa and Gerry offers an alternative to more traditional ‘homecare’ models. All the micro-providers live locally and this enables them to offer strong continuity of care. Using their local knowledge and connections they are also able to link the family into other local resources. The providers want to offer a flexible and responsive service with a strong personal touch built on real relationships. In practice this means they help out when needed and respond to emergencies in ways that can reduce the need for primary and emergency health services. The way support is commissioned allows the micro-providers to avoid strict adherence to ‘time and task’, leaving them free to help with whatever the couple need alongside care tasks e.g. cooking, cleaning, gardening or chatting. 

Value for money

A cost benefit analysis of Vanessa and Gerry’s support package has recently been undertaken by a senior commissioner from Somerset County Council. The care and support delivered by the four community micro-providers is £100 per week cheaper than a comparable service from a provider ‘block contracted’ by the council and £200 per week cheaper than a ‘spot contracted’ provider. For Vanessa and Gerry’s care this adds up to a saving of between £5,200 and £10,400 a year. Applying this approach to 10 people could deliver tangible savings of up to £104k a year.

Replicating the model

The Community Catalysts approach works with existing community structures, building upon and strengthening what is already there and working well. To achieve the kind of impact seen in Somerset, local people need support to explore their ideas, understand local needs, patient coaching, expert support around care regulation and legislation and access to strong local connections.

Our work continues in Somerset to further increase the numbers of local people offering care and support to others in their villages and parishes, helping people to get the person centred care and support that they deserve.

You can find out more information about Community Catalysts here.

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