What was the issue you were addressing or working on?
Voluntary Action Orkney received funds from Orkney’s Reshaping Care for Older People Change Fund to expand its existing Adult Befriending Service to specifically target older people at risk of or experiencing isolation and loneliness and reduce that isolation and loneliness. In reality many of the issues that befriending can help tackle are not age-specific and the expansion therefore built on a strong base of existing activity, knowledge and experience.
The health and social care partners in Orkney have accepted that there is significant existing evidence to show that isolation can both cause and exacerbate poor health outcomes. Reducing isolation is understood to prevent or at least delay such outcomes from arising and therefore prevent or at least delay the increased use of other more expensive services. The Befriending Service therefore forms an integral part of Orkney’s overall approach to the improved health and well-being of older people.
What you did?
VAO recruits volunteers and takes care of the various administrative and support aspects of volunteering such as PVG checks, supervision, training and expenses payments. This support is vital to building and then maintaining the capacity of enthusiastic people in the community to help others. Volunteers are matched with an older person and visit weekly or fortnightly depending on the older person’s situation.
Through discussion with the older person they establish a meaningful relationship based on reconnecting them and/or strengthening their links to the local community, simple good company and friendship, getting out and about and assistance with some of the basics of everyday living. The ongoing mutual involvement of both the supported person and their supporter in defining the precise nature of the support demonstrates a coproductive approach to the design of the service.
What were the outcomes - benefits or otherwise?
The service is evaluated using a personal outcomes approach, as it is acknowledged that older people understand as much about their own physical and mental health and well-being (particularly the latter) as might be understood from other indicators. Using informal interviews and unstructured questionnaires, the older people involved (and their carers where appropriate) provide feedback on their physical and mental health. Information collected so far shows marked reductions in feelings of isolation and, anxiety and increases in feelings of independence, good mental health, comfort in their own home, and overall well-being. Volunteer feedback also informs progress.
Click here to read individual testimonies about the project.