Ruth Jackson, from Napier Homecare Services in Blackpool, writes in response to the Equality and Human Rights Commission report on home care and shares what her organisation is doing to reduce loneliness for their clients.

High levels of social isolation and loneliness amongst people receiving social care support in their own homes, as highlighted in the Equality and Human Rights Commission Report, is a Fact.

The question is – what is being done about it?

At Napier Homecare Services we have long been aware of this problem and decided to work to reduce it. We were particularly concerned that Local Authorities were not only cutting back on funding care at home but also cancelling, or greatly reducing access to, Day Care Centres.

The first step was to sign up for the Campaign to End Loneliness to ensure we were linked to a national initiative and therefore able to join like-minded people in our mission to help clients, families and neighbours. We then began to host a series of social events for our clients in Blackpool.

We were aware that, in addition to experiencing social isolation and loneliness, many older people do not have the funds available to pay for transport and attendance fees at social events. Napier’s way of addressing all of these was to identify Community Centres which were available free of charge. Trudie Cooper, Napier’s Director decided to finance the sessions as well as supplying her superb baking. Prizes for raffles, bingo, etc., were then provided by our care staff.

We arranged for staff to collect clients who are unable to get to the venue on their own.  The more local residents walk to the event and one of our clients loves coming in a taxi, as it is a “real outing”.

We wanted to do something different from the traditional Day Care, whilst retaining things such as raffles and bingo which were high on the list of attendee’s wishes.

We have speakers on topics such as local history, the Red Cross, on Fire Services, entertainment history, local heritage, etc.  We find this stimulates discussion and memories and gives everyone the opportunity of having their say. A member of Napier’s staff, Peter, along with his daughter Victoria play the guitar and sing at some sessions and these sing-a-longs are particularly popular.

The sessions have been a huge success, attendance numbers continue to grow and we have been asked to extend them beyond the initial block which we had planned.

Our staff gain lots of experience from helping at the events, they learn more and different things from their clients.  Importantly, clients learn about their carers and also say that it is nice to have a different relationship with them – one of a friend and team member when we undertake activities.

On speaking with our clients, the socialisation has helped improve their health and wellbeing.  They have acquired friends and have stories and crafts to share with their families.

The real crux of the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s Report is around the effects of social isolation and if everyone can do just one small thing to help reduce this, then we can achieve a win-win situation for everyone and contribute to the Big Society ethos.

The group listen to talk by Eric Lee of British Red Cross