Sandra’s Case – an example of an ordinary and meaningful life

Sandra spent most of her life being referred to as ‘the one who smashes things’. Her life was empty, dull and frustrating. All it took to change things was a dedicated team of supporters who believed she was capable of so much more. They worked alongside Sandra and an employment agency to think of ways they could turn her smashing up’ into a positive. They found Sandra a job at a local pub/restaurant where she was initially paid to sort out all of the glass from the pub into the recycling bins.

Breaking things in this context was a skill she was being paid for. Sandra held this job down for over 10 years and in that time she worked in the kitchen and then clearing tables in the pub. Sandra proved to be an exemplary employee and was no longer the woman with autism who smashes things up.

Stories like Sandra’s made our Senior Management Team and Board of Trustees thing of other ways they could help create more employment opportunities.  They decided to use some of its reserves to find ways to help invest in local communities through micro-enterprises. Micro Enterprise has been a very effective way of creating jobs; helping people generate income and enhance their talents and skills, with successful examples like ‘The Big Issue’ and Jamie Oliver’s restaurant ‘Fifteen’ Micro enterprise have a social purpose at the heart of what they do and focus on the community they serve by re invest their profits back into the business. With such a good ‘fit ‘with personalising services we thought why not try this ourselves? We offered an option to people with learning disabilities to set up and run their own micro enterprise or to staff currently working for us to change their role to set up and run a micro enterprise that is complementary to our work.

With help from ‘Community Catalysts’ we designed and delivered a 2 day workshop and gave each person a  named mentor, who informed, advised and guided people through the process from a business idea to a business plan.  All we had to do was to remove obstacles and offer a ‘start up’, interest free loan that they would pay back once their enterprise was up and running.

The first successful enterprise was launched last year by a member of staff. She got the idea for her enterprise from her friend, who has a profound learning disability.  Cuts to funding are making it increasingly difficult for many people to use the places that we all take for granted. She wanted to find a sustainable way to create opportunities for people. Following support through the Business Planning process she launched the ’Peoples Lottery’ licensed with Lambeth Council, and registered with Unity Lottery. All of the money raised by the lottery goes back into a’ New Opportunities Fund ‘that local people with disabilities can apply to fund to trying new activities or places – photography courses; day spa; fine dining; allotment equipment.

Many people have a great idea for a small business or want to turn their passion into a way of making a living.  Micro Enterprise offer real employment opportunities for those who are at most risk of exclusion to build a business that is centred on them. By offering business planning support and start up, interest free loans, provider organisations can help people achieve a sense of purpose; make new friends and earn money that helps them control more of their life.