Client: Local Authority
Timeframe: 1 year-plus
Project Brief: Under the Care Act 2014 local authorities must promote wellbeing and prevention when carrying out their functions. As part of my project work for one local authority, I suggested developing a befriending service for sheltered housing residents to help overcome social isolation and loneliness. It would be funded initially by the HRA, with a view to possibly seeking additional health/social care funding later. The idea was well received and I spent around six months developing the business case and obtaining member approval, following which I procured a suitable provider to run a six-month pilot (subsequently extended). Prior to the service’s commencement I also established a joint project team to oversee operations and undertake the evaluation at the close of the pilot.
Business case: this was developed following research into similar services and discussions with various providers, together with evidence of local need gained from older people’s focus groups and past research I’d undertaken for this council. In terms of getting buy-in, the Council had set up a cross departmental ‘operations group’ to develop preventative responses to the Care Act and its support was key to making a successful case to members in due course.
Budget: fortunately the HRA was in a position to offer ‘proof of concept’ funding, using part of a contingency that had been set aside as part of its older people’s housing service transformation, which was not in the event needed. The pilot would be low cost as the chosen provider needed funding for its part-time coordinator only, the actual befriending service to be provided by volunteers.
Operations: procedural delays meant that the project began later than hoped. In terms of the provider (coordinator and volunteers) and project team we were well prepared when the day came to mobilise the service and there were no problems to speak of. Initially however we found it harder than expected to secure suitable referrals through the sheltered management team, but this was overcome through a process of learning on both sides.
By the time I parted company from this project, the pilot was running smoothly and producing good levels of satisfaction, together with anecdotal evidence that clients were being successfully encouraged to develop their own lasting social networks, meeting the original aims of the pilot.