A social enterprise specialising in the delivery of social care across the central belt has experienced a 300% increase in demand since lockdown started, praising long-term support from Business Gateway.
Lanarkshire-based Love Learning is a social enterprise business that bridges the gap between social care and education. Prior to lockdown, the organisation was providing an average of 1000 hours of care services a week. But since March, this has increased three-fold to 4000 care hours, and the team anticipates further increased demand following the end of the furlough scheme in October.
Love Learning funds services for vulnerable groups and provides education and training opportunities for those wishing to work in the care sector, with offices based in Fenwick, Stirling, and Gorgie in Edinburgh. The organisation has its own SQA accreditation, a framework in place to prevent learning gaps and uses education as a tool for empowerment. It has a 24 hour/7 helpline that service users can access for support and a wide network of support organisations that are reliant on the range of services in place.
Since the social enterprise was launched in 2015, founder Lynn Bell has received a wide variety of support from Scotland’s national business advice service, Business Gateway. This has included 1:1 support, advice on marketing and signposting to relevant funding opportunities that have enabled the growth of the business and ensured Love Learning has the capacity to facilitate the increased demand for services.
Love Learning is one of the first social enterprises to be accepted into the Scottish Enterprise Growth portfolio and is now working with Business Gateway on the development of a digital tool that will drive improvements across the care industry. This will be progressed following the completion of an ongoing feasibility study which was supported by a grant application signposted by Business Gateway.
Lynn said: “I have a long-term relationship with Business Gateway, who I initially approached in 2015 with just a spark of an idea. They helped me grow it into Love Learning and have been a vital source of support ever since, ensuring that the business was in a strong position operationally. They also helped increase my knowledge, as I was a firefighter before this, and I did not really know how to run my own business. However, the team were incredible and soon I was up and running.
“Like other care organisations, we have experienced phenomenal demand for our services since March, but with help from Business Gateway, we had the capacity and resource to manage this.
“The pandemic has really shown that unfortunately the sector is exhausted. However, I think there is an opportunity is to identify efficiencies and futureproof the service for the user using technology, which traditionally has not been utilised by the industry. This is our priority now as we believe that by providing digital solutions, it is possible to address sector-wide problems and bring the love back to care.”
Business Gateway also provided support across areas such as financial restructuring, innovation development and international exporting advice.
Elaine Kerr, Business Gateway adviser, said: “Lynn and Love Learning is an excellent example of how someone can come to our team with a nugget of an idea and, with help from our advisers, build a successful business. It is incredible to see what Lynn is doing and how Love Learning has adapted to the huge demand for services over the last six months and it will be worth watching to see how the business continues to grow and provide vital services for the care sector in Scotland.
If you are interested in starting your own business, please visit Business Gateway at https://www.bgateway.com/resources/starting-a-business.