Mobilise | Healthy Ageing Case Studies
Mobilise is a tech startup by carers, for carers. It employs technology to mobilise the insights, wisdom and experience of the UK’s 13.6 million unpaid carers so that nobody who looks after a family member, neighbour or friend has to do so on their own.
We spoke with CEO and Co-Founder James Townsend to find out how the Healthy Ageing Challenge helped them widen the scope of their business during the pandemic.
The big idea
Mobilise is a free online platform which aims to harness the knowledge and support of carers across the UK. Co-Founder James Townsend explains, “there are 13.6 million unpaid carers in the UK who are often not acknowledged for their care. Our mission is to mobilise the knowledge, wisdom and expertise of these people who have been there before, so others can learn from their mistakes as well as their successes.”
But what is a carer? James points out that many people do not identify themselves as carers; “they may just say, ‘I am looking after my mum’. But if you’re applying for a blue badge, regularly looking for clinical advice or helping elderly people with eating and drinking, then you might be a carer.”
The Mobilise platform offers a wide-ranging ecosystem of services for carers, including daily group meetings called Virtual Cuppas, traditional 1:1 Coaching and an automated email course of advice.
“I don’t promise to find a swift and clean solution to problems”, admits James. “At times it will be hard, messy and bleak. But with 13.5 million carers in the UK, if you’re in a one-in-a-million situation, then there are 13 and a half people I can introduce you to who can be in that moment with you.”
The back story
Mobilise was founded in March 2019 by James Townsend and Suzanne Bourne, with funding from the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
James’ mother has multiple sclerosis. He discloses, “I had to figure out for myself how to care, and made some very silly mistakes along the way”. James’ cofounder, Suzanne, cares for her husband who has early onset Parkinsons. They wanted to help people access support by drawing on existing knowledge. “The answer isn’t inside a leaflet somewhere, it’s inside of us. We knew there had to be a business to help share this wisdom.”
When the Covid-19 pandemic struck, they knew that support would be more crucial than ever. The pandemic put barriers in the way of carers getting support, especially face to face support.
At the very beginning of the pandemic Mobilise started its Virtual Cuppa initiative and sent out an e-support package via email every day. But to reach more people, and maximise the impact of their support on their fast-growing user base, they would need more funding. In Spring 2020, the team applied for a Covid-19 Fast Response grant from the Healthy Ageing Challenge.
The answer isn’t inside a leaflet somewhere, it’s inside of us. We knew there had to be a business to help share this wisdom.
Impact of the Challenge funding
The grant from the Healthy Ageing Challenge has already helped secure over £150k worth of revenue from clients, such as local authorities. Local authorities have a statutory duty to identify and support carers but often struggle to reach more than 15-20% of them. The funding enabled Mobilise to develop a new insights tool – Mobilise Moments – which gathers insights on the daily lives of 40,000 carers to help inform local authorities’ strategic planning, making the most from voluntary care and enabling statutory services to focus on those most in need of social care support.
The funding has also helped to produce studies for policy makers and healthcare specialists by collating and analysing these insights. This includes a study to capture the experiences of carers throughout lockdown, a report on mental health support for carers in the UK, and insights about access to vaccines to provide to the Department of Health and Social Care.
But for James, the most meaningful impact has been on the lives of the individual carers. As one carer describes it, “The [Mobilise] sessions are brilliant and so well run. They have made a refreshing change in my life that was much needed.” James received Christmas cards from some of the community, “How many CEOs can say that?” he says, “I’m proud, because it shows we’ve managed to make a big difference to people’s lives throughout the pandemic.”
Mobilise is looking to grow the business and is just about to close a further private investment round. This will help them to increase from seven to thirty the number of local authorities they will work with over the coming year. “Local authorities are really important partners for us as they have a huge amount of wisdom – both in local knowledge, but also in how carer support needs to work,” says James.
Mobilise is also planning to use further funding from the Healthy Ageing Challenge to evidence the impact that the shift to online support (as a result of Covid-19) has had on local authorities and others, and how this can be applied to future commissioning strategies.
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.