Meals on wheels makes a comeback

A new partnership should see thousands of vulnerable adults benefit. Social Business Trust have announced funding and business support to Hertfordshire Independent Living Service, a social enterprise that supports elderly and disabled people to live independently. 

The Social Business Trust (SBT) have announced a new addition to the small group of social enterprises that they support. SBT work as an ‘enabler’, helping social ventures to grow with a combination of funding and consultancy from experienced business professionals. The announcement is notable because the due diligence SBT undertake before choosing to get involved rules the majority of candidates out. Since 2010 they have scrutinised around 800 businesses but have only worked with twelve until this week.

Hertfordshire Independent Living Service (HILS) were today revealed as their thirteenth partnership. They provide a ‘meals on wheels’ delivery service to vulnerable adults, along with welfare checks, companionship and other assistance. Since 2010, HILS has increased the number of clients provided with daily lunchtime meals annually from 2,500 in 2010 to 4,000, up 60%. Their impressive growth is a ray of sunshine that goes against the generally dour outlook for such services. The Guardian recently reported that a third of all local authorities have abandoned ‘meals on wheels’ due to funding cuts.

SBT scrutinise a range of characteristics when considering a social enterprise but high growth potential is key. They look for businesses they feel they can help scale up their operations on a regional and national level in order to maximise impact. The goal is to improve the lives of over a million of the UK’s most disadvantaged people. Business advice comes from employees who can either be seconded away from their regular jobs or contribute time around their working day. 

Some of the more recognised partners of SBT who offer this kind of time are Credit Suisse, Ernst and Young and British Gas. David Alexander, Managing Director of British Gas Home Repairs, worked with SBT to review HILS’ potential for growth and recommended its inclusion in SBT’s social enterprise portfolio. He will continue to support HILS through SBT, working with its management team. 

Alexander said: “Like millions in the UK, I have parents in their eighties who wish to remain independent for as long as they can. HILS have an effective business model to support people like my parents to live happy and independent lives. It’s very satisfying to have the opportunity to use my business experience in such a positive social context.”

With the Office for National Statistics reporting that a third of babies born in 2013 are expected to live to 100, the demand to provide services for an older generation will only increase. In a 2014 client survey conducted by HILS a range of benefits came to light, including the valuable contribution of a healthy diet and the option of independent living. 69% of users reported feeling healthier and visiting their GP less as a result; 52% said they would be in care without HILS’ service. Isolation is also being combatted, with 81% saying they felt less lonely.

Sarah Wren, CEO of HILS, welcomed the support from SBT. She said: “No other organisation provides the tailored, sustained business input that SBT can offer. We look forward to benefitting from that and extending our service to thousands more elderly, vulnerable people as a result.”