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October 13, 2021

Making a Match: a slow burner with a lot of test and learn

I have been re-reading older project reports lately as we make sure they are complete and ready for the website. It has been an interesting process. As I wrote the report for Making a Match, a partnership project between MAECare (Moor Allerton Elderly Care) and OPAL (Older People’s Action in the Locality), I reflected that one of the aspects of their learning was very similar to some from Cara.

Both projects had planned to do what they hoped would be some relatively light touch work, with a recognition there might be some people who needed a greater level of support. In the event Making a Match discovered, as Cara had before them, that many of the people being referred to them from the target group of very socially isolated people, had a greater degree of need than had been anticipated. It’s never certain whether this is cause or effect, but issues included mental health problems, loss of confidence, undiagnosed dementia and alcohol dependency Without the ability to refer internally, as Cara had, to the Irish Community Support Service, supporting these individuals with higher needs derailed the project for a while at its beginning.

Read the Making a Match end of project report.

In time the project moved from trying to make individual matches to small group work, all interest-based, and things were starting to go well when Covid-19 closed activities down. The project was able to offer one-to-one support on the telephone or doorstep, which for some people was beneficial.

It seems clear that there is not a quick fix for social isolation and loneliness for everyone. Where what projects do is preventative, and for those whose ‘trigger’ might be transitory – read our report on Trigger points – people can re-engage with just a little encouragement. But it won’t work like that for everyone. Some people need longer, and someone to one support to help them resolve other issues before they can start to join in and make friends.

You can read our full end of project report – Making a Match: engaging people through their interests.

Jessica Duffy
Learning Facilitator, Time to Shine