Suffolk County Council and East Suffolk District Council are working together as partners on an exciting new project, funded by the Interreg France Channel England (FCE) programme, called Connected Communities. The initiative is aimed at improving the health and wellbeing of older people by providing local community-based services. The partnership also includes two other areas within the UK and four in northern France. The project is being monitored and evaluated by the University of Essex who will be responsible for measuring outcomes and spreading learning about the project internationally.
The Interreg programme has several aims, including the development of approaches to improve the wellbeing of ageing populations affected by rural and/or social isolation and deprivation, via cross-border co-operation and collaboration. The project in Suffolk will deliver activity over a 3-year period and this will commence ‘on the ground’ in late Spring 2020 but preparation and planning is in full swing now.
Suffolk will benefit from three ‘pilot’ areas within East Suffolk for the project work. These will align to some of the newly formed Community Partnership areas and have been selected due to each of them having both above average numbers of older people within their overall population and covering largely rural areas.
The pilot areas are:
In each of the pilot areas a ‘social prescribing’ based approach will be developed to reach out to older people in their community as often these people find access to services very difficult due to several factors, including mobility and transport limitations. A vehicle will travel to different locations in each of the three pilot areas and a range of services will be coordinated at local venues. The vehicle will be a small motorhome but adapted to enable staff to provide a confidential one to one meeting facility with older people. A worker will link the person to a range of services within their local community according to the individual’s needs. In addition, a range of local events will be organised and developed for both groups and individuals.
The principle of the service is that it will be asset based, building on local provision and putting the older person at the centre allowing them to have a real say in determining what best meets their needs. The ethos of this way of working can be captured by the staff asking; “What matters to you?” and not “What is the matter with you?” The connector or link worker provision will be contracted to the voluntary sector, but they will link closely to the work of the Communities Teams at both East Suffolk District Council and Suffolk County Council.