Local Treasures | Healthy Ageing Case Studies
Since 2013, Local Treasures has helped customers in the south of England find help with home chores, such as DIY, cooking, shopping, gardening and companionship.
The one thing these workers all have in common? They are over 50. Now, thanks to funding from Healthy Ageing Challenge, the business is helping local communities weather the economic storm caused by Covid-19.
The big idea
As the economic impact of Covid-19 began to emerge in 2020, Local Treasures founder and chief executive Sarah Heyworth noticed that the virus was not affecting all communities equally.
She believed her company was uniquely placed to help kickstart local economies. She wanted to connect over-50s workers – or ‘Treasures’ – living in a town that had been disproportionately affected with customers in another that seemed to be thriving. To do that, though, she would need new digital tools to help her.
The back story
Sarah was inspired to set up Local Treasures after moving house and realising that her father had a host of DIY skills that she could use. Unfortunately, he lived miles away. But it sparked an idea: how to embrace this wealth of untapped experience among the older community to plug skills gaps and provide local communities with useful services. And since the over-50s are more likely to shop in their community, it was also a way of re-distributing money back into the local economy.
The business was born in 2013 and began connecting customers and Treasures living in the same town or community. By the start of the pandemic, Sarah had around 800 Treasures on her books and knew from experience that older people were most likely to face redundancy and find it harder to get back into work.
For me, the future of work for older people is about blending flexible opportunities to suit both needs and lifestyle. Thanks to the Healthy Ageing Challenge, we’re geared up to deliver that change.
Impact of the Challenge funding
Using funding awarded by UKRI’s Healthy Ageing Challenge, Sarah ran a pilot project to connect Eastleigh – a town near Southampton airport whose local economy was shattered by the collapse of the airline company Flybe early on in the pandemic – and neighbouring Winchester where house prices actually rose. “We focused on providing jobs within a 10-mile radius of Eastleigh, so that it was still relatively easy for Treasures to travel,” Sarah explains. The approach worked, with the business bringing 400 new Eastleighbased Treasures onboard.
Until last year, however, most of the work involved in connecting Treasures and customers was done manually, using spreadsheets. So the bulk of the funding was put to work improving the business’s technology, including the development of a new, easyto- use app that allows customers to connect, hire and arrange payment digitally.
Crucially, the app is easy for Treasures as well. “That’s vital,” says Sarah, “because you’re asking an older user group – who may not be so confident with technology – to do all this online. It had to be intuitive and that involves a huge amount of work that was only possible with the grant.”
Using sophisticated AI-based technology, the app uses keywords, such as ‘leaking tap’ or ‘fixing cupboards’, to create one-to-one profile matches. Sarah believes this approach makes Local Treasures unique. “There are other recruitment services out there but none of them focus on older people in the way we do or offer a single match.”
Sarah can also use her technology to track customer numbers, jobs taken on and money earned. And she’s now working with Southampton University to incorporate a series of questions on issues like mental health, welfare and spending habits. The data this creates will help build a more detailed picture.
In the meantime, Sarah receives regular anecdotal feedback from her Treasures, such as this from Sarah, aged 65: “I don’t know what I would do without Local Treasures. They help me make ends meet at the end of the month” and Lisa, aged 63: “I am so pleased I found you. I was beginning to think I would never work again.”
It is feedback like this that motivates Sarah and the team, especially as the 2021 lockdown put a pause on many job requests. However, she is sure of two things: the full economic impact of Covid-19 on the over-50s has not yet been felt and those requests will come flooding back. “In many ways our work hasn’t even started. We’re ready, though, and now looking for our next two towns.”
Sarah’s dream is to attract more funding to take the idea nationwide. “For me, the future of work for older people is about blending flexible opportunities to suit both needs and lifestyle. Thanks to the Healthy Ageing Challenge, we’re geared up to deliver that change.”
This case study is one of a series shining a spotlight on projects that were awarded Covid Fast Response grants and supported by the UKRI’s Healthy Ageing Challenge. The projects all aim to enhance the lives of older people during the pandemic, and beyond.