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August 11, 2021

MHA’s Community Support Project: helping people get back to activity

MHA runs Neighbourhood Networks in West Leeds. From their experience they could see that people who had an accident, or had a spell in hospital, might need a hand to help them get out and about again, while regaining physical strength and confidence. They planned for their Community Support Project (CSP) to work with Leeds City Council’s Reablement SkILs team, to take referrals from them as people moved home following a hospital stay, and support older people with a short-term befriender who would accompany them as they got out and about again.

Read the Community Support Project end of project report.

Once again, the ‘test and learn’ nature of the Time to Shine programme came into play as things did not go smoothly – there were practical problems working with partners, and the older people had issues too.

Although the project seemed like a win-win when it was proposed, once the partners came to look at how the referrals would happen it got complicated, as there were hiccups over procedures for sharing information and ensuring a warm handover. They got there though. In the meantime the Community Support staff found other referral partners too, working in the end with the British Red Cross, Independent Age, South Leeds Recovery Hub, the Leeds PEP (Patient Empowerment Project), a number of Leeds Neighbourhood Network Schemes and AgeUK Leeds’ citywide SWiFt (Supporting Wellbeing and Independence for Frailty) worker.

The next hiccup was the realisation that although they had no problem recruiting masses of lovely volunteers, by the time the Community Support Project reached the older people they had lost more confidence than had been estimated, and there were often still practical issues to pick up. This meant sometimes staff had to spend more time than planned supporting people until they could be matched with a volunteer. The positive here was that many of the volunteers were able to work with other activities in the Neighbourhood Networks themselves, which had the knock-on effect of making them very effective advocates when they engaged with people.

Things were finally going better when Covid-19 arrived, and at that point the CSP workers and volunteers suddenly came into their own – not meeting people to take them out but expanding their reach across the city to support those who had to stay in. Those partnerships forged suddenly meant they could pass people to the right form of support pretty quickly and keep them connected whilst they did.

Read the full Community Support Project end of project report.

Jessica Duffy
Time to Shine Learning Facilitator