Meet SSE North West fellow, Elizabeth, who founded a fantastic social enterprise that supports young people with special needs or disabilities. The services also supports their families and carers.
What does your social enterprise do?
Way back in 2013 I had an idea to set up an organisation that didn’t charge the earth and that helped families of children and young people with special needs and disabilities.
The main purpose of this organisation would be to help with whatever issue the family was struggling with. It would be an organisation that, myself as a parent of a child with complex needs wanted but couldn’t find. I made a promise to myself that we would not be signposting services; we would deal with the issue and only refer on if necessary.
Six years later Wraparound is still here with three staff and offices in central Manchester. We are still surviving and still supporting families.
To date, we have supported almost two thousand families, either individually via telephone or in group meetings.
We are passionate about getting to know our families. We work with them on a personal level, as individuals, and we get to know each other. Some of the families we work with came to us in 2014 and as other crises or transitions have emerged, they have come back for support. They know that they don’t need to start from the beginning again – we already know them.
Why are you passionate about this cause?
As a parent of a child with complex needs, and having been a SENCO and Assistant Head for 18 years, I was sick of referring families onto services who would refer you onto somewhere else. I wanted to find a service that got to know me, my family, and our situation, and helped me consider options and outcomes to make an informed decision.
What was your biggest challenge in starting your social enterprise?
As time goes on your challenges change, your business model changes and the things you become interested in change. Allowing yourself and your business to be flexible enough is a big challenge. Doing most of it on your own is a big challenge. But I would say that now the biggest challenge is other organisations, professionals and services (not parents) wanting your advice, input and support but not being prepared to pay for it because they know it’s something you are passionate about. Don’t accept that. Your knowledge, skills and passion are worth just as much as anyone else round the table.
How has the School for Social Entrepreneurs supported you?
SSE provides a safe space where you’re able to be honest with people in your group who are at the same point as you. You can share how tough it all really is.
I would say my personal development as an entrepreneur and my understanding of social enterprise would not be where it is now were it not for the programme.
A moment that stood out for me is one Witness Session where the witness said, “If you think social enterprise is not about making money, think again. Without profit your business doesn’t exist.” This really helped me put a square peg in a round hole.
What are your key achievements or milestones?
Still being here despite austerity I would say is the first!
Others include delivering a fantastic project for the Department for Education – Independent Support for four years and working alongside the BBC developing their games and apps to be more inclusive.
We’ve also been able to work alongside local, regional and national partners in Health, Education and Social Care and bring the voices of the families we are working alongside to those high level meetings. There is a lack of understanding of what it’s really like for families – so this partnership is vital in that we are able to give real life examples based on our knowledge of our families’ experiences.
Our key achievement is when you get the random phone calls from parents wo are in distress, whose friend, GP, or psychologist has recommended they get in touch with us. We then help them and their children towards better outcomes.
Although we deliver training, talk at conferences, attend meetings and work with other social enterprises, our focus is always the children, young people and their family.
We wish you well on your journey too – never give up, remain focussed on your mission, and believe in yourself.