How do you explain Close to Hand?
Close to Hand is an online community that connects seniors with local people to lend a helping hand. It is designed to make it easy for people to arrange help and companionship at the same time as enabling local people to find flexible work that is meaningful.
We’re believers in good old-fashioned community spirit and we’re using technology to bring people together.
What sparked the idea?
I launched the website in the Autumn of this year. I could see a real lack of support services in the community catering for our independent seniors; people who don’t require care but could do with some occasional help and companionship.
Separate to Close to Hand, I run a live-in care agency for the elderly with my mum and sister and we were getting a lot of calls from people who weren’t looking for care services but could do with a helping hand with small ad hoc jobs around the house; light housework, gardening, shopping and going on errands etc. There was, and is, a strong need for this type of help but people just don’t know where to look for it.
As a mum of two small children, I was also hearing from other mums at the school gate of their struggles to find local flexible work. This is also true of students and those who have recently retired but are still active and looking for part time work.
The lightbulb moment came when I could see a way to meet both sets of needs.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
My children! Joking aside, whilst my children do literally pounce on us each morning, it’s being there for my family that brings purpose to my day. I’m lucky to come from a close-knit family – I work with my mum and sister and they’re behind me all the way.
As well as all the rewards being a mummy brings me, I also like to think that what I am creating in Close to Hand will make a difference to people. Loneliness is having a crippling effect on our society and I am passionate about changing this. We are building a community with the aim of helping others and working together – I want that to grow so that no older person is left isolated and lonely.
I am on a mission to connect local people and promote independence and flexible working.
What has surprised you most about people’s reactions to your new website?
Close to Hand is shining a light on kind people who want to make a difference; every day I am touched to read the profiles of the Home Helpers signing up to the service. Seeing the idea come to life is humbling and exciting; the number of people and the diversity of those people signing up to help others restores your faith in human nature.
We seem to be tapping into an undercurrent of change, a swell of people wanting to bring back community spirit, just like we do.
Do you have any advice for anyone interested in signing up as a Home Helper?
If you’re kind and empathetic then come and join us. Registering to become a Home Helper is quick and easy and you don’t need any specific qualifications. Not only can you enjoy the flexibility and convenience of work that is local and works for you by setting your own hours and rate, you can also genuinely make a difference to someone’s day.
What’s your biggest ambition for the business?
We’re starting off small by launching the business in this little corner of Kent, but I want it to expand nationally and internationally. I want to give older people more choice and more support to remain independent and connected to the communities they live in.