The micro enterprises helping out Barking and Dagenham

Paul Lucas with Eleanor Strange (aged 19) in the gardens at Rainham Hall

Paul Lucas with Eleanor Strange (aged 19) in the gardens at Rainham Hall - Credit: Vickie Flores/Archant

A collection of micro companies is offering community services to those that need it across the borough.

DJ Connor Minns

DJ Connor Minns - Credit: Archant

Working with tiny, independent enterprises – with five or less full-time staff – Community Catalysts links residents with creative services.

Among them is Out and About, tailored for people with learning difficulties, working towards specialised individual goals in everything from DJing to gardening in locations to suit.

One particular user desperately wanted to get a job working in a shop.

After gaining voluntary work experience with one of the borough’s charity shops, through the help of Out and About, he eventually saw his wish fulfilled when he was offered a job in retail with discount chain Primark.

Director and manager Paul Lucas, 54, from Rush Green, spent 11 years in social services with various local councils, including Barking and Dagenham, and says his scheme yields more success than the day care centre model.

“We will do anything the clients want,” he said. “They’re the governors, if you like.”

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And after working intensely with people to achieve their individual goals before going off to work independently in the world is a very special experience.

“It’s probably one of the most rewarding feelings you can ever imagine,” he said.

“It must be so good for them as well because we tend to get quite a bit of positive

feedback to be regarded for their wider abilities and not just as someone with learning difficulties.”

The business has two staff members working with six clients.

One of the many success stories of Out and About is Connor Minns.

He is a 22-year-old autistic man from Dagenham, who was helped to fuel his passion for DJing by the group.

Channelling his personal budget into his formal training, which he received from Islington charity The Elfrida Society, last month he performed live on radio.

Playing at a launch night at Reel Rebels Radio, Bouverie Road, Stoke Newington, the invited audience included a host of industry professionals.

To date he has also produced and recorded live shows for East London Radio, and has his own fortnightly show on Reel Rebels Radio.

He also plays at Wildbunch Club Nights.

“Most people thought Connor would graduate from the formal DJ training and that would be that,” said Paul from Out and About.

“But he has defied the odds and taken his skills to a new level.

“He is a rare talent, one that will reach the heights of the industry.”

A number of other local micro-enterprises are involved in Community Catalysts.

Among them is award-winning Dagenham business Whole Body Therapy.

Founder Sarah Allman offers advice, postural assessments and massage services to improve the health and well-being of elderly residents in residential care homes.