Last month The Municipal Journal published an article by Cllr Patricia Birchley, member of the Cabinet for Health and Wellbeing at Buckinghamshire County Council, about the Prevention Matters work we facilitated.
The current model of social care focuses on giving help to people when they need to be helped. In theory this makes sense. However, faced with increasing challenges from an ageing population, shrinking budgets and changes to the social fabric of communities, it's time for local governments to start being creative and rethink the social community for older adults. Buckinghamshire’s Prevention Matters programme, developed by Buckinghamshire County Council with the support of the Innovation Unit, does just that.
Through a co-production process, which has engaged stakeholders such as voluntary organisations, service users and other strategy services from social care and the NHS, we have developed a new approach that focuses on developing community capacity for prevention and early intervention services. Watch this video for an explanation of how the programme might work:
The model aims to promote independence, prevent the deterioration of wellbeing resulting from ageing, illness or disability, and delay the need for more costly intensive services. By identifying key areas that have maximum impact, it was found that with easier access to services and support networks, better contact with volunteer organisations, more user friendly housing and greater local medical support, users are given freedom in their daily lives.
Cllr Patricia Birchley points out how the programme will allow them “to regularly monitor and review people’s individual circumstances to help prevent deterioration in their quality of life,” enabling them to stay independent for longer.
While the Prevention Matters programme focuses essentially on developing community capacity, there are also some interesting developments happening in the digital world. Online services
such as POM4U (Piece Of Mind For You) and Cura have tools for this kind of innovative approach and are available for anyone to access. POM4U is a service that lets users easily check on their friends or family who are living alone. The person living alone checks in daily at a time of their choice by computer or mobile phone. If the user doesn’t check in at the scheduled time, everyone on their POM4U contact list will be alerted by email or SMS. This service gives elderly or ill people living alone a safety net to help them continue to live their daily lives independently. While POM4U is about keeping tabs on users who are able to live independently, Cura aims to provide help for those less able. It is a free social platform for caring for sick or elderly people and aims to “bring family, friends and communities together to care for the people around them.” Users create an online community around a loved one, to which they can invite their friends, family or the person’s neighbours, to help perform tasks which the loved one is unable to do, such as their cleaning or grocery shopping. Community members can also sign up to volunteer help.
Over the last decade there has been a 28% increase in the number of elderly people aged over 80 and the average life expectancy of the populationn is only set to rise further. With the number of dementia sufferers currently nearing a million and no cure in sight, the usual methods of caring for our country’s elderly definitely need an innovation jumpstart. This Friday it is Alzheimer’s Action Day - perhaps now is the time for other counties to consider the benefits of preventative social care models because, as Cllr Birchley points out, prevention is a lot better than a cure.