The participation of adult service users, including older people, in developing social care
Practice example 9: Help the Aged (Speaking Up for Our Age)
Characteristics of service users involved
Speaking Up for Our Age (SUFOA) is a programme run by the national voluntary organisation Help the Aged (HtA) which operates across the UK. Its purpose is to help to set up, and support, independent older people's forums which themselves enable the participation of older people in service planning and provision.
How service user participation within the organisation is ensured
Speaking Up for Our Age was set up with the help of a steering group that included older people from around the country and Help the Aged staff. Feedback from people involved in Older People's Forums is requested regularly about the service that is provided. A UK symposium was held to ask forum representatives about how they would like SUFOA to support them in future.
What policies on service user participation has the organisation formulated?
The policy covers:
- reimbursement of expenses incurred;
- making written materials available in other formats, such as large print;
- using accessible venues, hearing loops and other aids for people to attend meetings;
- as a UK-wide programme, endeavouring to involve older people in participation from all nations as much as possible;
- use of plain English.
How are service users supported?
The service to support forums includes:
- regular newsletters;
- training events and conferences;
- support for individual forums.
The support offered to service users includes the following:
- clear information about how to get to places for meetings;
- encourage them to use taxis where appropriate;
- prompt payment of expenses;
- approachable, helpful staff;
- efficient updating of the forums database;
- circulation of reports on our conferences;
- clearly written newsletters with useful information;
- healthy refreshments at events;
- provision of information which will help their forum to be more effective.
How are the effects of participation monitored, audited, and evaluated?
There have been two full evaluations of the programme.
What makes organisations succeed in participation?
The forums are run by older people for older people and are open to all older people in their areas.
Three important points to remember when asking people to participate are:
- Think about what you would want and expect if you were being asked to participate, and provide these things accordingly.
- Listen to what are participants are saying, change your service accordingly and feedback what has changed and why
- Saying thank you for people giving their time freely as participants, such as providing a nice lunch and sending thank you letters to show appreciation to each and every participant.