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Welcome Home Volunteer Update

With our Welcome Home band of volunteers, we try and organise meet ups where current volunteers and new recruits can attend and share their Welcome Home experiences and knowledge.

We have held two of these meet ups – one in the East in Liskeard and another more Westerly in Truro. It is always tricky getting all our volunteers together on a certain day.

We wanted to make the most of the opportunity by supplying copious amounts of leaflets on services/organisations and agencies that might prove helpful when visiting a client. As a countywide scheme we rely on our volunteers to have local knowledge that might be useful for our clients.

Read more: Welcome Home Volunteer Update

Transforming Health & Social Care

A lot of the work Volunteer Cornwall undertakes revolves around the health and care agenda. And although we do deliver some services ourselves, such as "Welcome Home", much of our work is "behind the scenes" - working with voluntary and public sector colleagues to try and join up some of the gaps in the system between health and care, adults and children or physical and mental health services.

We believe that there is a role for both individuals and communities in a joined-up health and care system and our three "Community Makers" are tasked with trying to make that a reality.

Recently, the respected health think-tank, "The Kings Fund", has produced a couple of reports recently which support the work we have been doing:

One of our Senior Managers has been taking part in workshops in London to look at strengthening the involvement of the voluntary sector in the transformation agenda and we are now starting to look at how we turn that from theory to practice on the ground.

Our Chief Executive has also been in London on a 2-day NHS event looking at large-scale change and "system leadership" (the challenge is not one for the public sector alone!)

We are hoping to test some of our thinking in the Helston area in the spring and will be arranging meetings with public and voluntary sector colleagues shortly to outline our thinking and invite them to get involved. Amongst our ideas are social prescribing and active signposting schemes, shared volunteers, genuine collaboration and engaging other groups to act as the 'eyes & ears' of GPs and community health services.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about our work, please do not hesitate to contact our Project Co-ordinator, Celia Newcombe: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 07968 706101

So, just what is a Social Entrepreneur?

well, the definition from the dictionary is 'a person who establishes an enterprise with the aim of solving social problems or effecting social change'.  However, when the Transform Ageing programme launched and people started talking about this, many didn't understand the definition.  In fact, participants - including people in later life - questionned what it was. Many of us assumed that it was referring to someone like Richard Branson or some kind of 'wide-eyed' whizz kid with pots of money and a brilliant idea but no, the social entrepreneur comes in many guises and more recently includes people like the lady behind the Junk Food project for example.

In applying that to the Transform Ageing programme, we had some people in later life who never thought themselves as 'social entrepreneurs' but equally had the passion and drive to follow an inspiration in wanting to effect change and so, we had our Transform Ageing Social Entrepreneurs!  Following the 'call for bids' back in October 2017, on Monday of this week the panel interviewed our first set of entrepreneurs for their pitches.  It was a very interesting and insightful day with three of the six applicants being Cornish and what was so inspiring was their passion for wanting to deliver their product/service and their determination for making their idea work.  We, as the panel, have made our recommendations to the Awards committee and the applicants will soon find out if their idea will receive one of the financial awards being considered.

What was particularly heart-warming about this process was how those that didn't originally consider themselves as 'social entrepreneurs' had grown as individuals and were now developing the business skills and traits to deliver their ideas.

It just goes to show that from 'little acorns grow' and that you should always follow your dream for if you have the passion and determination, you can make it happen!

Mapping - only part of the solution

Recently I undertook some mapping work for the NHS. I was mapping some of the charities, community groups and social activities in South Kerrier (roughly speaking the geographical area covering Helston and the Lizard). I was also trying to identify 'community connectors' - more of this later. The reason for doing this piece of work was to kick start a wider mapping exercise in the area, which will ultimately populate a website/database that health care professionals have access to, enabling social prescribing.

Across Cornwall there are thousands of charity and community groups (check out Do-It to find volunteering opportunities with some of them!) and mapping them in any area is quite a challenge! Firstly where do you look, how do you find them all? The reality is you don't find them all because there is so much to find and once you think you've found the majority, things change - contact details change, groups come and groups go and things roll on! Hence you only really map a snapshot of what is happening at a particular moment in time and you have to commit to ongoing updating. Nonetheless the snapshot is a useful starting point for social prescribing, but what happens next.

Different people get different things out of volunteering, for some it can help build confidence and lead to new friendships, for others it can be a route to gaining new skills and employment, just see Tony's story. In much the same way social prescribing can reconnect people with others or re-engage people in a hobby or interest, boosting wellbeing and who knows what may flow on from this, hence having a map of options to point people to is a useful tool but it is just the start of the process. Not everyone is a self starter, and arguably those receiving a social prescription may need a little more support than others as it isn't always easy making that first call or walking into that new place for the first time. Consequently people often need a helping hand to carry them forward. Via projects like VIVA and Living Well to Work we provide 1:1 support to help people make those first steps.

So, if people connect people to support why don't we use our human networks to discover what is going on in our communities. In every town and village there are individuals & organisations that are so well connected they can tell you a huge amount about what is happening. Developing human connections also develops capacity, with new ideas and motivation emerging. Therefore we need to understand those agents/community connectors that have a central position in our neighbourhoods and villages and then we keep it live through the interactions of people, it is the members of our communities that make the long-term difference. Therefore instead of connecting people to databases lets connect people to people and develop those lasting solutions together.

The 'Older' person 2018

I recently attended some ‘Falls and Frailty’ workshops run superbly by Marie Prior and Kerry Crowther from Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. The main reason we are considered an ‘older’ person these days is because we are living longer but not necessarily in a healthier way. So, by 50 we could, due to unhealthy life choices begin to develop certain conditions that may become quite complex if we don’t change our ways. I recently heard that the conditions that we, in the developing world are suffering with today such as obesity, diabetes, heart and lung disease are the diseases of the ‘Elite’ Although of course there are circumstances out of our control such as inherited conditions or diseases but if we make healthy life choices we can learn to manage these conditions and stay relatively healthy and strong. The whole point of the workshops was to raise awareness of care and prevention. Prevention being our personal life choices.

The workshop also bought to light the connection between poor health and loneliness and states in the ‘Shaping Our Future’ Frailty Toolkit:

  • 59% of older adults who report poor health say they feel lonely some of the time or often compared with 21% who report excellent health.
  • People who are socially isolated visit their GP more often, use more medication and have more falls.
  • Lacking social connections is a comparable risk factor for early death to smoking 15 cigarettes a day and is worse for our health than obesity and physical inactivity.
  • Social isolation is one of the top five causes for admissions to care homes.

With this in mind CPFT are now working with Volunteer Cornwall to help tackle that isolation by looking at the Voluntary and Community Sector as a vital link for social support for those isolated and in poor health. We hope in the near future to provide social activities as ‘Social Prescriptions along side Medical Prescriptions or instead of!

We may be considered an ‘Older’ person but it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy ourselves. The key factors for maintaining good health are, Nutrition, Exercise, Sleep and Social interactions. Are there changes that we could make now to improve our health and live a better quality of life?