Burntwood gardening enterprise encourages more new social start-ups

A unique enterprise in Burntwood is encouraging more people to set up their own social business.

The Cherry Orchard Gardening Service, known as COGS, trains and employs people with learning disabilities to become competent gardeners.

They work in collaboration with Burntwood Live at Home to maintain the grounds of around 170 older local people who can no longer undertake the work themselves.

The service recently won the prestigious Prime Minister’s Big Society Award after making a valuable contribution to the local community, and has also been nominated for a Social Enterprise West Midlands award.

Now, they’re calling on other volunteers or community groups to see what they’ve done, and do the same.

Ian Wells, COGS Project Co-ordinator, said: “When the Cherry Orchard Gardening Service started out following the wishes of the learning disabled gardeners, nobody could have predicted the welcome they would receive by the community. Nor could we have predicted the level of demand or the benefit our work would have for the well-being of the older people wishing to stay in their own homes.

“Becoming a social enterprise has really given us the freedom to grow as a business that benefits our gardeners and older people in the community. It really is a worthwhile thing to look into and really has benefits.”

County Councillor Liz Staples added: “The drive and passion I have seen at COGS has been truly inspirational.

“They are the epitome of what we want to achieve in Staffordshire — as much independence for people as possible and the choice and control over their own future.

“The world of social care is changing dramatically, and with that change comes new opportunities. The county council is looking at giving people the confidence to start a social enterprise, explaining the opportunities available and letting them know it’s not as hard as they think to set up a business that benefits the wider community, much like COGs has done.”

Information on COGS, and other groups like them, can be found on the Staffordshire Cares website at www.staffordshirecares.info.