Who or what are micro-providers?

Micro-providers are providers of very small, community based care and support services.

A micro-provider has eight or fewer paid or unpaid workers and must be totally independent of any larger organisation. Examples of micro-services could include:

  • Support to keep well, socialise and remain independent
  • Support to people living in their own homes
  • Short breaks and holidays
  • Support to access employment, education and leisure
  • Day support and help around the home

Why is Somerset supporting micro-providers?

Because we know that:

  • People want care and support at times and in ways that suit them
  • Local people helping other local people is good for everyone and for communities
  • People value flexibility, continuity and the ability to build a trusting relationship with a local person
  • Very small organisations can offer great care and be very imaginative and responsive
  • Very small organisations struggle to tell people what they can offer
  • People and their families do not always know what to look for in a Micro-provider

We want to create the conditions where local people with good ideas can make a difference and set up their own local services. We also want to make sure that people wherever they live in Somerset have able to access a wide range of help and support services.

The Micro-enterprise Programme

The Somerset Micro-enterprise programme is a partnership between Somerset County Council and Community Catalysts CIC in association with the Community Council for Somerset. The programme offers help, advice and specialist signposting to people with good ideas to set up local helping services. The programme can support with:

  • Accessing training and DBS Checks
  • Developing Policies and Procedures
  • Understanding Regulation and Legislation
  • Links to peer support and business advice

Through start up surgeries, networking events and 1:1 support the programme supports all micro-providers to meet the ‘Doing it right’ Quality Standard.

Since 2015 the programme has:

  • Directly supported the development of 329 new community enterprises and 62 existing enterprises.
  • Supported the formation and development of 16 peer-support ‘Trusted Trader Networks’ which have in turn supported 91 additional new enterprises.
  • Collectively the 482 enterprises are supporting over 1500 people in Somerset and are providing over 9,000 hours care and support a week.

What are micro-services for?

Micro-services offered by micro-providers are not for everyone but they are a good option for people who:

  • Can’t get the services or support they want and would like flexible local options
  • Have a clear idea about the support they need
  • Are able and happy to take responsibility for organising and managing their own care

Are all micro-providers unregulated?

Most Micro-providers in Somerset do not offer personal care as part of their service.

However if a micro-provider provides personal care (such as help with bathing, dressing, using the toilet, taking medication) in a person’s home, this is classed as regulated activity. They may need to be registered with the social care regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

There is however an exemption from registration if the provider is an individual and is contracted directly by the person (or related third party), working under their control and direction. [1] This means that a majority of Somerset’s micro-providers are not able to register with the CQC.

If a person or their representative want to use a micro-provider who is exempt from care regulation they will need to answer yes to the questions below.

  • The person knows what support or care they want
  • The person is willing and able to engage directly with a provider and tell them what is needed
  • The person understands how to check the suitability of a provider and make good decisions about engaging their services
  • The person is willing and able to check the suitability of a provider and decide whether to engage their services
  • The person has the capacity to control, direct and co-ordinate their care and is willing and able to do so

Care Quality Commission: Scope of registration (Page 14)

How do we know a micro-provider is safe?

To be registered as a ‘trusted provider’ on the Somerset Community Connect Directory each provider has provided evidence that they meet the ‘doing it right’ quality standards of the Somerset Micro-enterprise Programme.

This includes:

  • DBS Checks
  • Public Liability Insurance
  • Terms of Service
  • Support Plan
  • Complaints and Safeguarding Policy

The programme also offers a quality feedback loop which means that any providers or who do not share a commitment to the ‘Doing it right’ Quality Standard will be removed from the programme.