Herts Independent Living (HILS) is a social enterprise set up with the help of Hertfordshire County Council and some district and borough councils to run services that were previously run by some councils.
HILS was set up in 2007 and now has 4.58ml turnover and employs around 270 people. HILS is a Community Benefit Society with Charitable status from HMRC. Its charitable purposes are to serve the community including older, disabled, frail, and vulnerable people, and those who are unemployed, living in any of the physical communities in which we operate.
Today HILS provides three types of service:
Meal Related Services: HILS’ primary service is providing a Meals on Wheels service which operates 365 days a year, providing clients with the main meal of the day and some also receive breakfast and tea meal packs. HILS also provides emergency grocery bags and free food boosts for people who are malnourished. HILS also provides shared meals to lunch clubs and other community groups.
Community Services: HILS runs a range of activities in the local community including dementia fun clubs, Herts Wise Dementia Service hubs, and home-based support for individuals with dementia and their carers. They also run Active Ageing exercise support for people in their homes, as well accompanying people to get out into the community. HILS operates a thriving community hub providing a range of activities for the local community including a lunch club. HILS also installs keysafes for people who are living in their own homes to assist with access if someone is in need.
Health and Wellbeing Services: HILS provides dietetic support for individuals in their homes, nutritional advice, medication prompts, and nutritional awareness training in care homes and for community groups and other health and care professionals. 99% of HILS’ funding comes from trading, whether this is from direct payments from clients for the services they receive, or contracts with a range of statutory organisations. Hertfordshire County Council subsidises the delivery and infrastructure elements of HILS’ meals on wheels operations and the remainder is paid by the clients (or family members of clients). Some of the services are cross subsidised by HILS to enable the service to be free for clients; for example, the nutritional service and nutrition food boosts are free to clients and are funded from a surplus made elsewhere in the business. This is part of the added social value provided by the social enterprise.
A further social benefit is HILS’ employment practices. The organisation prides itself in supporting individuals facing barriers to employment through structured volunteering and work experience and helping them to get into work. Around 15% of HILS’ team members have faced barriers to employment (such as mental health issues, physical and learning disabilities or having a criminal record). They also host volunteers wanting to develop their skills and confidence or just make friends, and students who are studying degrees in dietetics or nutrition.
“If someone chooses to buy their meals on wheels from HILS they should know that 100% of any surplus made is reinvested to meet our charitable purposes enabling HILS to do even more good.” Sarah Wren, Chief Executive
Last year HILS looked after 15,000 individuals across all its services. For some clients this might be one or two interventions such as a home-from-hospital bag, but for others HILS provides a service every day of the year equating to 1.2 million interventions in 2018/19.
“It’s about keeping the balance between social and enterprise- that’s the most important thing that you need to do as a business, as well as evidencing the difference we make.” Sarah Wren, Chief Executive
HILS produces an impact report every year that illustrates the difference they make to clients and the wider community, much of which is above and beyond what they are contracted to do.
“Oh, the meals are super. I’m always boasting about them to my friends. My favourite is chicken breast with white sauce. The drivers are a fantastic bunch. They made sure I was OK in the really hot weather, making sure I had enough to drink” HILS client
“Consistent quality and fantastic staff 365 days a year. My mother would not still be in her own home without this service.” Daughter of HILS client
Over 90% of HILS clients report feeling happier and safer and able to remain in their own homes as a result of HILS’ services. They also report feeling less lonely and that their families don’t have to worry about them.