Highland Hospice covers an area 20% larger than Wales with a population less than 8% the size. The delivery of services equitably has proven extremely challenging. Whilst the concept of a hospice running a volunteer befriending service is not innovative, we believe our approach to rolling this out across the Highlands through partnership with local communities is.
Helping Hands is a volunteer befriending and support service established in 2016. The service has four objectives: build community capacity to deal with death and dying; support carers to sustain their caring roles; mitigate impacts of social isolation for clients; support wider health and social care system to cope with increasing demand.
The service is open to all individuals in need, regardless of their diagnosis. In order to extend the service across the whole Highland region we deliberately sought small, locally run organisations with a close connection to their community. To date we have established five partnerships each at a different stage of development. One partner had an existing befriending service we were able to augment, the others had no similar services. The partnerships work with small populations dispersed across large areas. Local knowledge and contacts support the recruitment of volunteers and helps people feel more comfortable referring to the service.
Seeing success, the hospice has committed to establishing more partnerships to develop local services. Our 2018–2021 strategy, ‘Supporting our Compassionate Community’, reflects the fact that we wish to support our wider community so that together we can help address palliative and end of life care needs.
We recently identified two rural Highland communities with under-provision of social care who want to work with us to pilot partnership delivery of social care services. Working in this new way can prove challenging but the opportunities of supporting people in their own community is worth it.