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Advice and Information for the Elderly of Hammersmith: Gloucester House Research Report

Research report:
Looking into the need for an Advice and Information Centre in Hammersmith (Sycamore Gardens W6)

Report author: Ruthi Margulis
Date: Friday 21 November 2008

1. Introduction

1.1 Reasons for this research

1.1.1 The role of Hammersmith United Charities (HUC) in providing services for elderly residents in Hammersmith and Fulham

HUC held a Strategic Away Day on 8th March 2008, with attendance from trustees and stakeholders. Discussions were held about a future role for HUC in relation to the direct delivery of services for the elderly 1. Those interviewed were:

  • Kim Dero Head of Community Liaison Unit LBHF
  • James Reilly, Director of Social Services, LBHF
  • Javina Seghal, Older Persons’ Commissioning Manager, LBHF
  • Penelope Harrison, Director, Voluntary Sector Resource Agency
  • Roudie Shafie, Co-ordinator, Hammersmith & Fulham Refugee Forum
  • Kate Davies, Chief Executive, Notting Hill Housing Trust
  • Gordon Keenan, Director, Urban Partnership

The key findings from these discussions, relating to older people, were:

  • There is a shortage of property in the Borough to house the voluntary sector.
  • There are only a few projects that provide social activities for older people.
  • There is a need for medium level support to the elderly including:
    • Help in the home
    • Encouragement to get involved in community activities.
    • Security in the home and benefits advice.
  • Potential to establish of a small team (two or three staff) working to facilitate a programme of activities for the elderly and befriending and supporting people to get involved. Such a team could support 3-400 people and ideally would have a budget of £10K to spend.
  • The Voluntary Sector Resource Agency have set up a Community Property company to support the development and refurbishment of appropriate spaces for community organisations.
  • Good Neighbour schemes and befriending services are struggling to secure funds.
  • HUC could assist Black and Minority Ethnic communities by funding:
    • Lunch clubs for the elderly.
    • Advice on access to benefits, aids and adaptations.
    • A resource centre for the voluntary sector.
  • There are major local providers working in the field of the elderly (e.g. Notting Hill and Servite in terms of housing for the elderly including specialist schemes) so HUC needs to carve out a different role for itself. It should look into funding research on projects related to assisting elderly residents remain independent in their home.

In order to maximise the support and services provided by HUC to older people in Hammersmith, the organisation is considering setting up an advice and information centre (see section 1.1.2, below) in Sycamore Gardens, if evidence is gathered that this “would fulfil an existing need amongst the elderly in the area of benefit (including our residents).” To fulfil this objective, the trustees at HUC wanted someone to undertake objective, unbiased research that will give them an accurate picture of the need and feasibility for setting up such a centre, without this research being directed by their views, experience or aspirations.

1.1.2 Plans for Gloucester House

The management of Hammersmith United Charities (HUC) aims to expand the capacity of Gloucester House residential home during building works in 2009 /10 and to include an advice and information centre and café as a future means of opening the house to the local community. The home is currently unoccupied. A site visit was undertaken in summer 2008, which found the entrance area and lounge of the centre to be an attractive place, which could host a range of community activities and that also includes access to gardens and industrial kitchen facilities.

No dedicated research has been undertaken before now to establish either the exact needs of the local community or the likely usage of such a facility. HUC and WRVS (formerly Women’s Royal Voluntary Services) – a charity that provides support to older people – have joined forces to implement a research project to inform the design of a potential future centre.

Initial research carried out by the WRVS Territory Manager indicates that Shepherds Bush may well be an area with a lower than average representation of charities working with and for older people. Age Concern and the council both run day centres in different parts of Hammersmith that should not interfere with the geographical area of Gloucester House. The same may apply to visiting / befriending services in this Borough, which would mean that there could be good potential for establishing a wider range of community and home help services.

WRVS already provides a befriending service in the neighbouring Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and with the geographical distance between both Boroughs being relatively small the services of both areas could possibly be connected with each other. This programme is to determine the needs of older people in Hammersmith and in particular the Shepherds Bush area. The results of the research will inform the design of future service development in partnership with HUC.

The centre could include:

  • Information displays, including leaflets etc.
  • Online information (guided by trained volunteers / staff or non-guided)
  • Talks / courses by guest speakers (topics to include savings and income, health, care and funeral etc)
  • Small activity groups (reading, exercise, gardening, reminiscence etc)
  • A small café facility that would provide hot drinks and snacks. The kitchen could be utilised to include preparation of cakes or pre-packed hot lunches and possibly preparing hot lunches

The centre would be run by a part-time paid project manager (approx 30 hours a week) to ensure consistency in the service delivery, promotion of the centre to the local community, partnership building and to provide further information to service users. The project manager would also recruit and maintain a group of WRVS volunteers to help with the activities at the centre (guiding service users to and through information available on paper and online, helping with the catering and supervising food preparation, helping with activity groups). The overall management of the project would come under the WRVS Territory Manager for London.

An independent researcher was commissioned by WRVS to carry out the research programme aimed at establishing whether there was a need for and advice and information centre at Gloucester House, and to map the current services available in the area. The timescale for this research was extremely limited, at 8 weeks.

1.2 Methodology

1.2.1 Service mapping

The researcher has mapped out services both in writing and on a geographical map to show exactly what is currently available in the target area. This information can be found in section 3 of this report and was gathered through Internet searches, telephone interviews and meetings with service providers, leaflets and booklets from providers and the council, and questionnaires to service providers. This exercise was highly successful in gaining a thorough overview of the relevant services available in the target area, eligibility criteria and gaps in service where need is not being met.

1.2.2 Consultation

Consultation was undertaken with stakeholders, service providers, community centres, befriending services and community groups. A number of methods were used for this consultation:

  1. Telephone interviews with service providers
  2. Face to face meetings with service providers at their premises
  3. Emailed questionnaires to service providers and stakeholders
  4. Paper questionnaire to Sycamore House residents
  5. Focus group held with Sycamore House residents
  6. Focus group held with North End Pensioners Club
  7. Arrangement of focus groups with Better Gov forum, Ex-Carers Group and Elgin Centre customers have been agreed in principle, to be arranged by WRVS London Territory Manager.
  8. Postal questionnaires to residents in the wider community (2 mile radius) distributed via GP surgeries, community centres and housing offices. For this, 30 questionnaires were sent to each organisation to distribute to their visiting clients.
  9. The researcher held discussions with the Pensioners Forum and Age Concern regarding getting access to their newsletter mailing lists, in order to send out a targeted batch of postal questionnaires to residents. This will be followed up by the WRVS London Territory Manager.

The full list of consultees is as follows:

  • Hammersmith and Fulham Council
  • The Hammersmith and Fulham Pensioners Forum
  • Better Government Consultative Forum in Hammersmith and Fulham
  • The Hammersmith and Fulham Volunteer Network
  • WRVS Paisley High Point
  • WRVS Peterborough Senior Stop
  • Hammersmith & Fulham Citizens Advice Bureau
  • Fulham Legal Advice Centre
  • Hammersmith & Fulham Community Law Centre
  • Advice and Employment Shepherds Bush
  • Threshold Housing Advice Centre
  • Worlds End Neighbourhood Advice Centre
  • Age Concern Hammersmith and Fulham
  • Hammersmith And Fulham Mind
  • Hammersmith and Fulham Action on Disability (HAFAD)
  • Stevenage Road Day Centre
  • Grove neighbourhood centre
  • Elgin Close Resource Centre
  • Masbro Good Neighbours Scheme and Elders Project
  • Fulham Good Neighbour Service
  • Bishop Creighton House
  • Nubian Life Resource Centre
  • Shanti Centre
  • Irish Support & Advice Service
  • Iraqi Community Association
  • Sycamore House residents
  • Sycamore House Warden
  • Residents in the wider community

1.2.3 Response rates to consultation questionnaires and requests

Service providers

Questionnaire responses were received from Hammersmith and Fulham Council Older People’s Team Manager, The Hammersmith and Fulham Pensioners forum, and the Chair of Better Gov/LINK. The researcher had discussions with Hammersmith and Fulham Volunteer Development Agency, trustees of HUC, and gained detailed information on two existing advice and information centres set up by WRVS.

A satisfactory number of service providers’ questionnaires were received back, however responses were not forthcoming from: Fulham Legal Advice Centre, Threshold Housing Advice, HAFAD, Fulham Good Neighbour Service, Nubian Life, Shanti Centre and the Iraqui Community Association. This is despite several telephone calls and emails. The researcher spoke to the Irish Support and Advice Service but they were too busy to participate in an in depth interview due to being fully booked with appointments with clients.

The researcher decided not to hold focus groups with service providers as enough information was gained through the consultation programme.


A handful of Sycamore House residents completed and returned their questionnaires, however the focus group was well attended and represented the views of all the residents to a satisfactory degree.

A focus group was held with the North End Pensioners Club.

25 questionnaires were received back from residents in the wider community.

1.2.4 Evaluation of consultation

The consultation programme achieved most of its service mapping aims, having successfully gained in-depth knowledge of the individual services available to older people in the target area, subscription and take up of these services, how services are run and funded, what clients of these services need and where these needs are not met. However, due to a lack of time, the research was restricted to the larger community groups; attempts were made to contact the larger black and minority ethnic (BME) community organisations but more research is needed to ensure that full coverage is achieved. This has resulted in a gap in the service mapping exercise and needs consultation, with further work needed. (See recommendations in section 5.6.) If HUC or WRVS are to provide services to older people in Hammersmith, this must include all older people, in all communities, as appropriate, to ensure statutory equality and diversity responsibilities are met.

Consultation with Sycamore House residents was conclusive in its findings, and gained the information needed for this research, although further discussions will be needed between HUC and the residents.

A much higher response rate from residents is needed to accurately gauge the needs and views of older people in the wider community, to enable us to know whether they believe there is a need for an advice and information centre at Sycamore Gardens, and whether they would use it, as well as how regularly. The reason for the poor response rate here was the limited timescale of 2 weeks from receipt of the questionnaire to the deadline for responses.

Usually such a consultation would allow 12 weeks from sending out the questionnaire to response deadline. People, generally, are happy to complete and return questionnaires, but take their time in doing so, saving it until they have a spare few moments. This means, therefore, that the questionnaire is put aside and forgotten about until these spare moments, by which time it is likely that the deadline had passed. The respondent therefore would assume their responses would not be considered after the deadline and so they don’t complete and return it. Therefore, further questionnaires will need to be sent out to residents, as detailed above, using mailing lists from Age Concern and the Pensioners Forum. (See recommendations in section 5.6.)

  1. Source: HUC Strategic Review Awayday Report 8th March 2008
  2. As expressed by HUC trustees, Sarah Burrell and Elaine Ashton.
  3. Contact details are provided in section 4.5.2

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