The success of a country’s social services are the backbone of a truly democratic and well-functioning society. While Ukraine has yet to live up to its potential in this area, Assistanspoolen – a new Swedish-based company about to open its doors here in Kyiv – fills the gap.
The Swedish model of social welfare is hard to beat. While taxes are high, so too is the country’s standard of living, entitling everyone to quality health care, family services, and other social benefits, regardless of income. For Carina Ryder and her family, the idea that she might be able to help Ukrainian families look after their loved ones with truly meaningful care is a “dream”.
A Pool of Possibilities
The Swedish island of Oland is where Carina and her sister Annette spent their childhood. An injury to her back since birth means Annette used a wheelchair for much of her life. Rather than have her daughter placed in an institution, the girls’ mother wanted Annette to have her own place. But she also wanted to have a say in who was going to help take care of her.
“My whole family, created a home for my sister and three of her friends, who also had disabilities. They each had their own small apartment, with one shared space, and everyone had their own personal assistant.” The process allowed Ryder’s mother the opportunity to get a real feel for what the industry needed and what might still be lacking. Wanting to help others make the transition and ensure a certain standard of care, Assistanspoolen was formed.
That was 24 years ago. Since then, the company has been taken over by Ryder and her husband, and has grown to include a client list of 76, and personal assistants numbering more than 450. “We have it really good in Sweden – we have laws that mean everyone is taken care of, so I have this dream to help others,” says Ryder.
The idea to start something here in Kyiv came after a visit to a centre for disabled children in November 2016. “We were also able to visit the homes of some children – it was shocking. This one woman was living with her 21-year old disabled daughter in a (communal space). To wash her, she had to carry her down the stairs and wait for someone to help carry her back up. This to me was so hard.”
Filling in the Gap
Over the last year, the group has been hard at work developing the business for Ukrainian clients, focusing on care for disabled persons, but also bringing in services for cleaning, nanny/daycare, and elderly care.
More than just a business, Assisstanspoolen looks to create a completely different approach to welfare, and not just concerning their clients – their staff as well. “We offer training, called the Life Leadership. We believe that if we educate and take care of our staff, they will be proud of what they are doing” which positively affects all involved.
Not only will staff get over, but the company’s operational system is also quite impressive, which includes a unique QR code for each individual client. When staff come in to clean, for example, all they need to do is scan the code and the necessary tasks appear. And this will be the case for all employees – whether cleaner, nanny, or personal assistant.
Ryder gets excited: “But there will be so much more! We will also have key lock boxes that require either a QR code or fingerprint to unlock,” which makes the key for the premises available. “We don’t want our staff compromised when they are travelling through the city,” she continues. “We want everyone to be safe and secure.”
At some point, Ryder wants to bring people with disabilities on staff. For now, she is happy to report that part of their project is also non-profit. “We plan to take 4% of our turnover to use as non-profit services, so those who cannot afford to pay can also be helped.”
Though this is the first time this business model implemented outside of Sweden, Ryder has big plans: “we want to move into other cities of Ukraine. And then the rest of the world!”
Locals who know about the project think, “it’s amazing”, she says. “Those who have the means send their loved ones abroad to get the help and care they need. There will be a day soon when they can bring them home to get that same assistance.”
“We plan to take 4% of our turnover to use as non-profit services, so those who cannot afford to pay can also be helped”