Our NEW befriending and mentoring scheme!

norma with driverA few months ago I wrote a blog post about befriending, what people get out of it and why it is a service that is so badly needed in the borough.  Several months on there is still a pressing need for more befrienders, and the links that form between volunteers and people who were previously very isolated are the building blocks of the all-important community ties that in our experience really must continue to be emphasised in care strategies at both local and national levels in the future.

With all of this in mind I am pleased to be able to tell you all today about our own brand new befriending scheme that is being run by our colleagues over at Volunteer Centre Lewisham (VCL).  Before I launch into the detail, I think it is important to acknowledge that it is really a reflection of the dynamic and responsive voluntary sector in Lewisham that the project has been started up.  This is something that all involved should be proud of, from the commissioners at Lewisham Council who had the foresight to fund the work that we have done to the development workers and facilitators within Community Connections that have uncovered this need and worked so hard to address it, to the wonderful staff at VCL who are in charge of the befriending project to the new volunteers who have already signed up to be befrienders.  I think this project is not only an important practical step on the road to making Lewisham a better place to grow old, it also sends a strong message to everyone that the voluntary sector in Lewisham listens to service users and responds effectively. Without further ado then, here is the key information about the project:

COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS BEFRIENDING AND MENTORING SCHEME

Volunteer Centre Lewisham’s Community Connections Befriending Scheme is aimed at providing 1-2-1 as well as group support to older and vulnerable adults in the Borough of Lewisham.

How we work

We recruit, train and supervise people interested in becoming volunteer befrienders and introduce befrienders and service users to each other in a friendly, informal and supportive process. The main aim of this befriending scheme is to actively promote independence and recovery.  The Befriending Co-ordinator & volunteer befrienders will work with rather than for the service user.

Who do we work with?

Anyone who is over the age of 18 and belongs to the following groups may be able to use our service:

  • Carers
  • Older people
  • Disabled people
  • Substance abusers
  • People at risk of exclusion
  • Vulnerable adults

The Befriending Co-ordinator will meet with you to do an initial assessment and will discuss what you need from us and how we can support you. This might include help to access an activity, learning a new skill, accompanying you for appointments or simply having someone to talk to.

Once we know what you need the Befriending Co-ordinator will find you a suitable volunteer and introduce you as soon as possible.

How to access the service

You can self-refer or you can be referred by your Doctor, by social services or through other agencies. Befriending Scheme Referral Form

We are recruiting

The Befriending scheme depends on volunteers and we are always looking for reliable and committed people interested in becoming volunteer befrienders to support vulnerable and older adults in the local community.  Click this link to see the volunteer role description:  Volunteer Befriender

We offer full training and support to all our volunteers and we provide out of pocket expenses as well. 

For more information please call Aparna Sapre, Community Connections Befriending Co-ordinator on 020 8613 7113 or E-mail: community1@volunteercentrelewishamorg.uk

So if you have a few hours to spare and would like to be more involved in your community, please come and join us!

Post by Henry

Then What? Healthwatch Lewisham launches local inquiry into discharge processes

At Healthwatch Lewisham we ask people to share their experiences about health and social care services. Currently we are focusing on people’s experiences of leaving hospital or a community care service; we call this the discharge process. We would like to gather feedback from as many people as possible to understand what works and what doesn’t in the discharge process.
 
If you have an experience that you could tell us about or know or work with someone who does please take a few minutes to complete this important online survey. We can provide paper copies wherever needed.
The survey is anonymous and we will not publish any information to identify you. The combined findings will be shared with managers and commissioners of health and care services in order to improve services in Lewisham. Our findings will contribute towards a national inquiry being run by Healthwatch England who are carrying out a national inquiry into unsafe discharge processes.
 
If you would prefer to write to us, would like to request a paper copy or prefer to tell your experience over the phone or face-to-face please email info@healthwatchlewisham.co.uk or call our office on 0207 998 7796.

The Deadline for completing the survey is Wednesday the 9th of July. 
Click here to go to the Survey
 

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” ― Helen Keller

On the morning of Saturday 8 March 2014 the Practice Patient Group (PPG) held the inaugural South Lewisham Health Centre Health and Well Being community event. This was held at the South Lewisham Health Centre.

At a very early stage in the planning process the PPG decided that ‘collaboration’ would be the key theme of the event. And in a spirit of collaboration the Community Connections Community Development worker for the South Eastern cluster (Trevor Pybus) had the opportunity to work closely with the South Lewisham Health Centre Patient group to help deliver the event. 

A series of outcomes for the event were developed; these included increasing the current health information held at the South Lewisham Health Centre for patients and the wider community and, importantly, to share the learning from the event.

A draft plan setting out the potential best use of the waiting room space was drawn up. Over twenty different community services applied to have information stalls at the Health and Well being event. The variety and breadth of organisations that were willing to participate was outstanding; new and old, small and large; all applied and were welcomed.  The PPG supplied a unique opportunity for these very different organisations to network with staff from the Health centre. Local people along with the South Lewisham team of Doctors engaged in a very informal dialog. People quickly found out more about the very different community based services.  

An unplanned outcome of the day was the potential for community partners to have information stalls available during the centres opening hours.  

The day was an excellent example of how the Community Connections project is trying to embed the key concept of co-production in the development of public services. The day helped especially toward increasing community capacity. The informal approach untaken will hopefully lead into improved user and carer experience of services. And the use of PPG will help toward the acknowledgement that the citizen has a vital role in achieving positive outcomes from public services.

I look forward to letting you have a copy of the final report!

Trevor Pybus

Community Development Worker

Surviving, Striving, Thriving?

Two weeks ago I went to a conference hosted by the Centre for Community Engagement Research at Goldsmiths University. It was called “Communities surviving, striving, thriving? A day of dialogue and action.”
One of the most thought provoking moments of the day for me came right at the start when Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters offered up a thoughtful and engaging critique of multiculturalism and multifaithism. Her objections to these movements were centred on how they can have a homogenising effect on minority communities; allowing people to check the “we are being inclusive” box by referring to “the Muslim community” or “the Somali community”, for example. It is of course important to recognise the existence of these communities, to be able to work with them and include them in discussions and actions that will affect them just as they affect the wider population. But it is this repeated reference to “them” to which Pragna objects. As if “they” are a homogenous lot and “their” views can be represented by individual (usually religious) community leaders. It was, in a way, a plea for a wider recognition of intersectionality. The recognition that, in essence, people are not just members of the ethnic and religious communities they are (usually) born into, but that their identities are far more complex and they will themselves identify with several different communities at once and, most importantly, that this will have effects that cannot easily be broken down into their constituent parts.

We also heard from a number of other panelists including Mat Danaher from the Unison trade union whose impassioned call for people to restore faith and renew support for the trade union movement was warmly received and former young mayor of Lewisham Jacob Sakil in a day that managed to encompass a heated debate on food banks alongside workshops on the effective use of music as a means to engage with communities and on what the concept of democracy means to communities. There was even an agreement to take immediate action to address the problem of homelessness within the student population at Goldsmiths.

A running theme throughout the day and one that is most relevant to our work in Community Connections was the need to build more resilience and strengthen bonds in communities. It is a common reaction to the world we are presented with in 2014 which is characterised to a large extent by the disappearance of those links between people that once bred the kind of mutual support that we are struggling to provide to our ageing population. A world that Zygmunt Bauman calls “Liquid Modernity”. Crucially though, our attempts in the voluntary sector to reinvigorate communities are not (and should not be) just nostalgic calls for the solidarity of bygone eras, lest we reinforce the homogenising effects referred to above. Instead we must strive to celebrate the complexity that exists within us all, recognise each other as assets, and offer up support that blurs the lines drawn up by this well-intentioned drive to tolerance we call multiculturalism.

Post by Henry

100% Great!

Mr. W, a gentleman of 74, was referred to Community Connections in December 2013 by Lewisham Council. I was assigned as his Community Support Facilitator. Around the same time Lewisham Council’s social services were working very hard to support Mr. W after some time spent in hospital. The Holy Cross church in Catford has also been wonderful in the support they have offered him. Holy Cross bring communion to Mr. W.’s home, they also brought him hot meals throughout the winter and are encouraging him to attend social events at their church.

I worked with Mr. W between December 2013 and February 2014. In this time Mr W. and I explored what kinds of activities would improve his life. I also spent time encouraging Mr. W. to take care of himself and his home.

Mr W. loves football and socialising, he also likes to go to the local cafe for breakfast. I linked him up with Age UK Lewisham and Southwark End Loneliness Project. This project provides befrienders to visit people who are feeling isolated. A befriender was provided for Mr. W., who likes football and also loves to socialise, so that have plenty of common interests! This befriender is hoping to arrange a Men’s social group in the future. Mr. W. expressed that he was very enthusiastic about this prospect. He also told me that he’ll soon be introducing his befriender to his favourite café!

During the follow up visit Mr. W stated that he felt a lot better and also felt that he was more active and had met more people. Mr. W. looked in really good health and he said that he was feeling well. He had improved drastically since December. When asked about his befriender Mr. W, said that he was “a smashing bloke.” He felt that the input from Community Connections, Holy Cross Church and Lewisham council had improved his life. I asked Mr. W. if there was anything else he would like to add about the Community Connections project, he replied “you’re just 100% great.” This case is a really positive example of how Community Connections can work in partnership with other agencies to enhance the wellbeing of an individual. This is also an excellent case of organisations working in an integrated manner. I look forward to reporting upon many more cases like this!

Post by Rosa Parker, Community Support Facilitator