Innovation in social care: what’s going on and where does Have a Go Heroes fit?

03Dec10

This week the National Care Forum annual review took place, where the focus was on the challenges of providing adult care in precarious times, looking ahead to the future of care.

The report launched at the event highlights how the gap is widening between what individuals and the state can afford and what is needed as a service. We’re seeing this gap increase as local authorities withdraw all but essential care. The Centre for Social Justice said this week that this gap could grow to £6 billion over the next two years. Chief executive of the RSA Matthew Taylor spoke at the event, outlining how he believed the answer lay in exploring the many ways we could innovate within the sector, particulary when it comes to those non-essential services that often provide the highlights in a person’s day. Here he explains the possibilities as he sees them:

“The areas of invention which most interests me tend to be at the intersection of three trends. First, the growth in personal and community based commissioning (Turning Point are doing some great work on the latter). Second, the search for ways of bridging and smoothing the divide between paid and unpaid care. Third, new ways of thinking about the economics of care, utilising not just money but other commodities such as time and housing.”

One project that Matthew mentions in his write up of the event is the Japanese community currency Caring Relationship Tickets, set up back in 1995. The basic unit is one hour of service to an elderly person. This can be peer to peer, family members or neighbours, carrying out the sorts of jobs we’ve discovered that older people really value, but find it difficult to ask for – people dropping by for a cup of tea, someone mowing the lawn or the odd hot meal.

Elderly adults who take part in the scheme tend to prefer the services by people paid in the tickets, rather than those paid in yen. As Matthew explains,“to convey this community service to yen would seem to dilute the community ethic”, reflecting some of the lessons in our own conversations with older people. Social contact that people can feel a part of and contribute to is key, rather than a transactional service associated with traditional elements of care.

There’s plenty of interesting projects going on closer to home, notably Southwark Circle, a service for all neighbours of all ages to share their skills to help each other out and create stronger community ties with many members being paid the London Living wage for their time. Spot of Time is a new initiative based in East London that aims to make it easier for people to get involved with helping out those in their community without having to commit long term. Across the pond we’re really excited about mobile app that recently launched in the US called Groundcrew – a service that uses mobile technology to organise people in real-time. Would be volunteers sign up, tell Groundcrew their free time and what sort of things they’d like to help out with. When a ‘mission’ then crops up community organisers are able to connect to people who are available nearby in real-time through text message.

Where does Have a Go Heroes fit?

Have a Go Heroes wants to make it easier for older adults to help other older adults. We’re interested in the space where social contact and community potential meet. Just like the care token system in Japan, we understand that older adults value support from those they have a relationship from and as part of a network that they are invited to contribute to. This might start of in one area of care, such as older adults cooking for each other, but could spill out into all areas of support. If you take a look below*, you can see the sort of support that cropped up most frequently when asking older adults what they valued and how they wanted to get involved. Social support that they mught just be able to help provide for each other.

We want Have a Go Heroes to strengthen community networks creating relationships that can be relied on. We want to do this on a very local level, using new web and mobile tools – but most importantly using local people’s willingness to help each other out.

* posts read (l-r) value neighbours and friends who call to make sure we’re ok, meeting friends, receiving a telephone call, talking to people on the estate, helping people, visiting and chatting to people, healping others, preparing and eating a nice meal.



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