Challenges for the Voluntary Sector: The growth in Britain’s ageing population, coupled with the significant financial pressures on the NHS mean that innovative approaches are needed to deliver public services. The voluntary care sector is playing an increasingly important role in delivering these services. As the UK Governments White Paper on volunteering explained, “the voluntary and community sector is uniquely placed to reach socially isolated people and connect them to befriending services and other networks of friendship and support” (HMSO, 2012: 22). Because as we know, people are happiest and healthiest when they are active, independent, valued members of their communities, and supported by a network of family and friends. Despite potential the voluntary care sector still faces great challenges; especially around training, organising and retaining volunteers in communities.
Opportunities for the Voluntary Sector: Living Well is a progressive initiative which is offering a new way to deliver elderly care. The initiative uses a combination of paid staff and volunteers to provide a tailored package of support that is unique to each person, helping them to manage their health conditions and re-engage with their communities. Integral to this innovative approach are the volunteers who are positioned at the at the heart of the process in the co-production of care for older people. To date Living Well has been pioneered at three sites in East (East Cornwall Living Well Project), Central (Newquay Pathfinder) and West (Penwith Pioneer) Cornwall. At all sites Living Well has proved extremely effective in improving mental well-being, reducing emergency department attendances, and improving elderly peoples experience of care and support.
Enabling Innovation in the Voluntary Sector: Since 2014 the VIC team have been collaborating with Age UK, Volunteer Cornwall and the NHS. This research has yielded valuable insights into the practices, processes and geographies of volunteering and care in Cornwall. After securing funding from an Impact Acceleration Account there is now the opportunity to ensure this research has impact in the voluntary care sector. Over the next six months the Volunteers in Communities team will be making recommendations to the Living Well partners. To ensure these recommendations are implemented Timothy Walker, as the Knowledge Exchange Fellow, will be embedded within the Truro based offices of Volunteer Cornwall and Age UK Cornwall. The key aims of knowledge exchange process are:
- Contribute to the Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group’s process to enable Living Well to be commissioned across the county;
- Co-create a set of guidelines for the training, organisation and retention of volunteers;
- Inform and train Living Well partners to enhance skills and knowledge;
- Increase wider policy understanding of the benefits of and barriers to effective integration of volunteers into the co-production of care for older people.