An evaluation of the Kirklees Do Your Thing project, delivered by Community Catalysts, to develop new innovative community-based activities for individuals with learning disabilities and/or autism. The two-year project, which employed a local catalyst, undertook a thorough community scoping exercise to identify organisations and people in Kirklees who might add value to the project; met people with a learning disability and/or autism interested in running an activity (called group leaders) and their supporters; supported group leaders to identify and connect with potential group members; identified community venues which could be used at no or little cost by group leaders to run their activities and formed strong working links with their managers; captured the journeys of the group leaders and showcased the outcomes of their work throughout the life of the project; established and strengthened a circle of formal and informal supports around each group leader to ensure the sustainability of their activity as the project came to end; and developed a set of ‘top tips’ for commissioners and other organisations keen to help other people with disabilities use their talents and interests to set up groups and make a contribution. The evaluation finds that with the right kind of help and support people with learning disabilities and/or autism will readily use their often-unappreciated gifts and talents to set up groups and activities that benefit other people. The project has also successfully challenged negative perceptions of people with learning disabilities and/or autism, helping professionals and families to recognise their strengths and gifts and the contribution they can make with the right kind of support. Key learning points include: it takes time to embed a project like this which brings radically new thinking into an area; some people prefer to work alone, and peer support groups may not work for everybody; establish the boundaries and be clear about the types of support that potential group leaders could or could not expect from the project; focus on the people who are really motivated; and work at people’s own pace.
OUTSIDE THE BOX
This report, developed as a resource for community groups, draws on recent key reports, discussion papers and research studies to present evidence on creating and sustaining community-based support for older people, including those which older people lead. It provides definitions of terms and approaches used in community-based support; outlines the current the policy context in Scotland; and then provides an overview of the main findings on community capacity building, changes in public services and the impacts for older people. Points raised in the evidence include: older people who need extra support generally know what will make life better for them; community-based activities that focus on older people's wellbeing complement other services; and that providing community-based solutions and low-level support to older people before they need greater support can prevent or reduce the need for higher intensity services, bring benefits and better outcomes to the people involved. The final section summarises findings from the individual reports and research reviews identified. Although the policy and practice context for the report focuses on the situation in Scotland, most of the reports featured in the review come from the experience of services based in England.
SOCIAL CARE INSTITUTE FOR EXCELLENCE, CONTACT THE ELDERLY
This At a glance briefing explains the importance of tackling social isolation and loneliness, particularly among older people. It highlights the adverse effects of feeling isolated and describes a number of services that have been found to help reduce the problem. It draws on research evidence from SCIE's 'Research briefing 39: preventing loneliness and isolation: interventions and outcomes'. It also includes case study examples of two services - a befriending scheme and social group - that help to help mitigate loneliness and isolation and improve the wellbeing of older people.
HEMINGWAY Ann, JACK Eleanor
A UK charity established a network of 70 friendship clubs in the south of England, facilitated by volunteers, with the aim of promoting well-being for older people. The charity provides venues and transport for participants to meet and enjoy activities locally every week for 2 hours. This article reports on a 3 year research project exploring the impacts of the intervention, using qualitative research methods and including participant observation and individual and focus group interviews. The study was based on 10 of the friendship clubs and collected information from 82 members and 18 volunteers. The article describes the intervention and the study methodology. It presents the results, with illustrative quotations from participants, covering views on the risk of becoming isolated, feeling isolated, and friendship and support. It identifies additional factors that can predispose an individual to become socially isolated, including environment and safety fears, fear of falling, and loss of confidence, and notes that even when living with their families older people can still feel socially isolated. It reports that club members and volunteers viewed themselves as assets for each other, offering support, advice and friendship, and that, overall, the perceived benefits for attendees of attending the friendship clubs fell into 3 key areas: improved well-being, social relations, and mental and physical health.