What was the issue you were addressing or working on?
Research by Voluntary Action South Lanarkshire (VASLan) identified social isolation as one of the key areas reported by older people and their carers as requiring further support. Many older people reported that they can go for days without speaking to anyone and were concerned that if they were taken ill, nobody would realise. The research also indicated that older people enjoy interaction with young people.
What you did?
Stay Connected South Lanarkshire was a 3 month pilot scheme set up by the Locality Officers and funded by Voluntary Action South Lanarkshire (VASLan) and private donation. Launched on 27th August 2013, it is a morning call service offering support to older people in South Lanarkshire. The service provides a 2-3 minute call between 9am and 12noon Monday to Friday to check that older people throughout the area – especially those at risk of isolation – are safe and well. The calls are made by young volunteers involved in VASLan’s Employability Project who have completed a full training course complete with role-play scenarios. The project supports key agencies, carers and families by acting as an early warning system if any issues arise.
The client can choose what time of the morning they would like their regular call. If no reply is received then contact will be made with their emergency contact which may be a family member, neighbour, carer or local authority contact.
Families may also benefit by encouraging the service for an older family member for a limited time frame while they are out of the country on holiday or business.
Older People’s Champion, Councillor Pam Clearie, made the first caring call for Stay Connected South Lanarkshire on 23rd August.
Aileen Campbell MSP, Scottish Government Minister for Children and Young People, attended the launch. She added: “This is a fantastic initiative from VASLan and their partners and I hope it will be a tremendous benefit for many people in Clydesdale and across South Lanarkshire. I am pleased to add my support to the scheme.”
Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Lanarkshire, Helen Russell, was impressed by the team’s enthusiasm. “I’ve met the young people who are manning the lines and they obviously feel they are doing something very worthwhile,” she said. “They’re really up for getting to know their clients and developing relationships.
“I think the scheme has massive potential and I’d encourage families, friends or neighbours of an older person who they feel would benefit – and older people themselves – to contact VASLan.”
What were the outcomes - benefits or otherwise?
The initial project envisaged the use of young people as the callers in the morning, as part of an employment training opportunity. Fortunately/unfortunately most of the young people found employment or training within the first 5 weeks, the calling therefore reverted to the locality officers. The officers who had set up the first part of the project left the RCOP project.
Most referrals were received from self or families and very few came from the statutory agencies-who gave confidentiality as the reason.
The pilot ran from September 2013 to March 2014-we were advised that finishing in November may not be a good idea since December and January are times when vulnerable adults feel more vulnerable. Decision was made to run till end of January 2014.
No definitive exit strategy had been established at the outset, however the remaining locality officers planned a hand over of the project to another third sector group who were providing a morning call service in another part of South Lanarkshire. This finally took place on the 24th March 2014.
Up to 34 individual utilised the service over the period of the pilot; a number of families used the service while they went on holiday. At time of hand over 22 people were still using the service.
Locality officers called emergency phone numbers on five occasions leading to help and assistance to those needing it. Locality officers made two home visits because emergency contact could not be contacted – although this was not the original remit; the user was near to the operations and two officers visited. The individual was grateful and was found to be alright.
The service ran over the Christmas and New Year holiday. One alert on Boxing Day allowed early discovery of the death of an elderly lady alleviating anxiety within the community.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that those using the service are comforted by the fact that each day someone will call to ensure they are well. It provided the feeling of well-being and dreduced the feeling of isolation as originally intended.
A newspaper article describing the experience of one user is available here.
Contacts - to find out more
Gordon Bennie, Gordon.Bennie@vaslan.org.uk 01698 300 390