Project Aim: to connect people with health, care and other needs, to the appropriate statutory and voluntary organisations that can help them
This Our Place Wye project is based on over ten years of experience gained by the Village and Community Agents in Gloucestershire, and comparable schemes operating in Leeds, Essex and Hampshire.
The Project Team is still working on the job description and funding for the Wye Community Connector (Village Agent) with Kent County Council (KCC). Our Place Wye aims to extend the scope of the generic job to reflect KCC's new duties under the Care Act 2014.
The following summary of information from Gloucestershire Rural Community Council (GRCC), reflects the main aims and objectives and likely core task areas for the Wye post.
Key aims of the Village Agents scheme:
- To help older people in the most rurally isolated parts of Gloucestershire feel more independent, secure, cared for and have a better quality of life
- To give older people easy access to a wide range of information that will enable them to make informed choices about their present and future needs
- To help older people access services or assistance that can help them to remain independent, and live safely in their own homes
- To enable older people to remain active for longer, and be part of a supportive community
- To engage older people to enable them to guide their future service planning and provision
In Gloucestershire, a team of over 30 Village Agents support the over 50s and isolated and disadvantaged people of any age across the county. The Agents give face to face advice and support in their own homes. They are also have access to a wide range of information. This outreach service enables people to make informed and timely choices about their present and future needs. The scheme aims to help older people feel more independent, secure, and cared for, and as a consequence, enjoy a better quality of life. Gloucestershire now has a parallel scheme operating in urban areas, where the advisers are called Community Agents.
Both the Village Agents and Community Agents provide information and advice across a wide range of subjects, including:
- Social care
- Personal finances
- Pensions and benefits
- Home safety, fire and crime prevention
- Social and leisure activities
- Property care and repair
- Lifeline personal alarms
- Fuel and energy costs
- Home improvements
- Health issues
Since 2009 the Gloucestershire scheme has trained specialist advisers who support people aged 18 and over with cancer, and their carers, in partnership with the MacMillan survivorship project. The Village Agents help cancer sufferers and their families, to deal with with practical problems. Clearly, every day tasks such as finding a cleaner, and dealing with problems with transport and getting to appointments are not matters for health professionals.
Gloucestershire Village and Community Agents are trusted members of their communities. They are recruited locally as people who can be approached in confidence for information and support, and have become invaluable to their clients. Agents bridge the gap between their local community and the statutory or voluntary organisations that can offer help or support. Agents rely on their local contacts and detailed knowledge of their area to identify unmet needs.
From July 2009 to June 2010 Village Agents made over 42,000 contacts, and while there will be an element of double counting in the figures due to regular attendance at luncheon clubs and coffee mornings, their visibility makes them recognisable, approachable, and very much a part of community life.
Primarily, the Village Agents work alongside older people, but they also support disadvantaged and isolated people of all ages who live in their patch.
Case Study 1:
Worcester City Council employs Community Connectors. The Worcester project centres on recruiting, training and employing people from within the local community to offer guidance, support and one-to-one advice to others.
The Community Connectors take an asset based community development (ABCD) approach to their work. In essence, the starting point for ABCD is the belief that the only sustainable way to improve health, social and economic issues is to enlist the very people who are now classified as 'clients' and 'customers'. Principally, to convert them from being the passive receivers of services, into active co-workers and partners who are engaged in service delivery.
The Community Connectors project aims to reduce health and educational inequalities by building resilient communities; supporting the most vulnerable members of our communities and providing opportunities for health improvement, learning, training and employment.
Over 12 months the project will offer 500 people 'drop in' support and structured 1:1 support to 50 people. The benefits to partners and stakeholders of the service will be considerable;
- Communities, families and individuals will receive the help they need from within their locality
- The bespoke sessions to be delivered will be tailored to their needs following the development of positive and trusting relationships.
- Local people will be trained and employed to help deliver these services within their own community.
- The opportunity to share learning and develop new approaches across the social care and public sector to support households who with early support may place lower demands on public services
(Source: edited from a Worcester City Council report)
Case Study 2:
A typical example from a Village Agent's case notes: "...A GP referred Mr K (56) to me. He had just been moved to this area by the council into more suitable accommodation for his needs – severely disabled by osteoarthritis, with poor balance and mobility. He has no family contact and no friends in the area, no transport, and was feeling very isolated. Mr K also suffers some mental health issues and is almost housebound, living on means-tested benefits and DLA care component.
I was able to help Mr K apply successfully to the Barnwood Trust for a grant to obtain an electric scooter. This has given him some independence, allowing him to get out of his home and get into the village to do shopping and meet people.
I believed Mr K satisfied the criteria for a DLA mobility award and asked Age UK to help him make the claim. This was successful and resulted in him receiving an extra £52 per week. I also helped Mr K apply for a Blue Badge for disabled parking for when he is taken out by car drivers.
My contact with Mr K is ongoing. He has recently contacted me again because he was in a panic about a letter he had received from the DWP, believing his Incapacity Benefit was being stopped and that the DWP had found him fit for work. When I visited to look at the letter the DWP were advising him that his Incapacity Benefit was to change to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), and that there would be no change made to the amount of money he would receive. They were also letting him know that they were going to send him forms to complete to assess his capacity for work. I was able to refer him to the CAB for help to deal with the forms and the assessment. So far this has had a positive outcome and he is still receiving his ESA..."
Source: Gloucestershire Village and Community Agents Cost/Benefit Analysis (Published November 2014) An analysis of the benefits, including financial, accruing to clients and to Health and Social Care services as a result of the work of Gloucestershire Village and Community Agents between 2012 and 2014.