St Luke’s Cheshire Hospice has established a number of community based befriending schemes; coordinators are based either in local community settings or within community organisations. Befriending service exists to extend the reach of services to sectors of our population historically under-represented within hospice care. Although the effectiveness of this approach is favourably documented, limitations in impact were noted when a befriending service operated in isolation to other community groups.
To overcome such limitations, a local town-based community ‘caring’ infrastructure has been developed and a hospice community engagement worker (CEW) appointed. The CEW has a vision of a Caring Network; which is an infrastructure comprising of town groups contributing to community-based care for frail, disabled and elderly. It seeks to connect the vulnerable with their community that they can benefit from a variety of support. Community Engagement approach has at its core relationship building and trust building.
It aims to:
Support a variety of community ‘care-focused’ groups to communicate with each other rather than operate in isolation;
Increase inter-group referrals enabling isolated and frail individuals to have greater connexions with their community.
The CEW is a local community member therefore an ‘insider’. Barriers are broken down as our worker is accepted on a ‘level footing’ by the community and is best placed to understand its needs. Language spoken is at grass roots level- speaking the language of the people not the professionals (or hospice language!). Communities need inspiration to feel empowered and feel a sense of cohesiveness and control.
Challenges include the slow building process of inter group trust-building and how to gain evidence about impact.
This model of community enablement can meet the changing needs of our population in a low cost and adaptable way; responding quickly according to need without the restraints of organisational bureaucracy.
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