Have A Go Heroes at North Birmingham’s older peoples reference group

27Jul10

Last week Have A Go Heroes dropped into the North Birmingham Older Peoples Reference Group. It was a great opportunity for us to explore the real concerns of older people, the type of support that received in their communities and what they felt was missing.

The meetings take place every two to three months and over sixty older people whose lives were touched by care came along to share their stories, as well as hear about support already in place that could help.

Community Links- social, formal care:

It was really interesting to here about the Community Links programme within the area, that aimed to be the first port of call for those who want to get involved with their community.  The service aims to help older adults find out about and become involved in activities and opportunities in the local area, striving for a person centred approach by chatting to the person involved and finding out what they would like from the service. They provide close support for eight weeks with the hope of creating a long term network around the person that can continue to grow. It might be that Have A Go Heroes could develop on this by looking into such services how those within the community could help continue to provide this sort of social support once the programme finishes for the individual.

Handy Persons scheme-  formal practical care:

“Most of the time we can all get along fine- but when we need small bits of help it’s hard.”

The Handy Persons scheme is service provided by the council to help out with odd jobs around the house, be it changing a light bulb to fixing a socket. The person in need of care can call a number and someone will be sent out to fix the odd job. Although a valued service, issues such as delays and limitations were mentioned. Would there be any potential in opening up such a scheme to a trusted network of people around the individual, particularly to those who are happy to use new effective, and often quicker,ways of communicating, such as the web to help out those who need a hand?

A space for informal, social support?

“When my husband came out of hospital with dementia the immediate care and support I received was fantastic- but when I was able to cope, which on a practical level I was, I found myself completely lost. It was very lonely.”

It seems that although care and support are in place and make a real difference to peoples lives the soft areas of support, such as social contact, self organising and just knowing where you could find a person to chat to seemed to be a slightly grey area. In addition to this a real bug bearer seemed to be the lack of information around services, being classed as the most urgent priority to be resolved from a survey from the last meeting. Quite a few of those present felt a little frustrated with having to provide the same type of information over and over again, as well as finding  accessing services both a confusing and time consuming business, especially when it came to these smaller informal aspects of care.

“Unless you have a defined need, you don’t really know where to go. I don’t really need much help at all- but I would still like to be able to have more cups and teas and chats.”

It would be great if Have A Go Heroes were able to continue these thoughts and perhaps develop something that could fit this missing gap, either by helping use information that already exists in a better way, or by making it easier for those in the community to create stronger networks of informal and lasting social support.

We’ve been lucky enough to have North Birmingham’s support so far on our journey, and we are keen to develop the conversations that we begun at the reference group. If any of this sounds like something you could help us with, your insights are more than welcome! Either leave a comment below or tweet us over on @HaveAGoHeroes.We’d love to hear from you.

The project so far reflects some of our learnings from our work with Snook on the ALISS project for the Scottish Government earlier this year. Hopefully as we move forward with Have A Go Heroes we will be able to bring together our experiences from ALISS to help develop both projects even further.

You can read more about ALISS here and here– or follow on-going updates over on twitter at @alissproject.

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