The hospice movement has been built on the efforts of volunteers and their contributions continue to be essential for the survival of the movement today. The impact of the work volunteers undertake is often quantified in terms of benefit to the hospice in financial terms or in additional services provided to patients, but the impact on the volunteer themselves and on the wider community is often overlooked. This is an essential component of a community development or compassionate communities approach. This presentation will assume a new perspective and argue that a volunteer-focused perspective is essential in developing a community development approach in a hospice, but that this often sits at odds with a predominant patient-focused view.
Compassionate Neighbours is a community development project run through a large hospice which aims to start a social movement to transform the experiences of those affected by death, dying and loss. A key component of this is the training of community members to become ‘compassionate neighbours’ and visit people locally in need. The project manager is responsible for recruiting, selecting, training and supervising the compassionate neighbours and managing their position within the hospice. The manager does not see them just as a resource for the hospice to use but rather sees their personal development, their relationship with the hospice and their understanding of its work as key outcomes in their own right.
This presentation will use a case study approach to explore this situation in more detail, making use of evidence from the project evaluation to explore issues of risk, autonomy and the difficulties of starting community development projects where the outcomes are difficult to specify in advance. The outcomes of this approach including a buddying system, community champions and the acceptance of the project in the wider community will be presented.
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