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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

4. Research findings

4.1 Advice and Information Centres

The following organisations were contacted and emailed the consultation questionnaire:

  • Hammersmith and Fulham Citizens Advice Bureau (H&F CAB)
  • Fulham Legal Advice Centre (FLAC)
  • Hammersmith and Fulham Community Law Centre
  • Advice and Employment Shepherds Bush (previously Shepherds Bush Advice Centre)
  • Threshold Housing Advice Centre
  • Worlds End Neighbourhood Advice Centre (Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea)
  • Hammersmith And Fulham MIND Advice and Information Centre
  • Hammersmith and Fulham Action on Disability (HAFAD)

Responses were received from H&F CAB, H&F Community Law Centre, Advice and Employment Shepherds Bush, Hammersmith and Fulham MIND.

FLAC, Threshold Housing Advice Centre, Worlds End Neighbourhood Advice Centre and HAFAD have not responded.  The latter was contacted by telephone first, then by email, then chased, however a response was not forthcoming by the time this report had to be finalised.  The other three were contacted by email, and telephoned several times, but the researcher was unable to get through to anyone.

All of the services who responded serve the whole of the borough.  They provide a wide range of advice and information, consisting of housing, welfare benefits, financial, legal, employment support (help in getting a job) and other specialist areas, including casework and representation where needed.  MIND caters only for older people who have experienced or are suffering from mental health problems.  These organisations do not provide advocacy services.

Only H&F CAB and H&F Community Law Centre use volunteers to help them deliver their services.  CAB liaise with the Volunteer Development Agency and other local agencies, and have an intake of two trainee advisors each year.  The Law Centre is usually approached by individual volunteers or through LSE.  These two organisations are also members of the Hammersmith and Fulham Advice Agencies Forum, so work in partnership with a large number of local agencies and organisations.

All four organisations are never short of work, with some services (such as the more general advice and information ones) are oversubscribed, while other, more specialist services are used much less.  Each organisation stated it was restricted by funding, premises and resources, indicating that there is more demand than supply for these services.

All, except MIND would be interested in displaying leaflets and information about their services in an Advice and Information Centre in Sycamore Gardens.  H&F CAB and Advice and Employment Shepherds Bush would be interested in holding activities or workshops in the proposed centre. Advice and Employment Shepherds Bush stated that Sycamore Gardens was an accessible location for an A&I centre, while the other three were unsure.

Both MIND and H&F Community Law Centre stated that there is a gap in social service support, in particular befriending and community support.  With the exception of H&F CAB (who responded ‘unsure’) the other three all agreed there was a need for and Advice and Information Centre in the Hammersmith area/north of the borough (i.e. the target area of this research).  None of the organisations are planning to set up their own A&I centre in this area.

Three of the consultees were unsure of the need for more assisted shopping, lunch club, meals on wheels and community transport as they are aware that these services are already being provided in the borough.

However, MIND stated that there was a need for more befriending because “although there are befriending services they tend to have long waiting lists and focus on the elderly who are physically frail, rather than those with mental health issues. I commonly work with service users who are isolated because of their mental health or cognitive impairment.” Also, “assisted shopping if it includes shopping beyond basic provisions as this is a big gap in services and community transport because service users have reported that existing services are very unreliable.”

4.2 Community and Day Centres and Befriending/home help services

The following organisations were contacted both by telephone and email and asked to take part in the consultation:

  • Bishop Creighton House
  • Masbro Elders Project
  • Stevenage Road Day Centre
  • Elgin Close Community Resource Centre
  • Grove Neighbourhood Centre
  • Fulham Good Neighbours Scheme
  • Nubian Life (culturally specific – African)
  • Shanti Centre (culturally specific – Bangladeshi)
  • Iraqi Community Association

Telephone interviews were held with Bishop Creighton House and the Masbro Elders Project, while face-to-face interviews at the centre with the manager were held with Stevenage Road Day Centre, Elgin Close Community Resource Centre and the Grove Neighbourhood Centre.  No response has been received from Fulham Good Neighbours, Nubian Life, the Iraqi Community Association and the Shanti Centre, despite several emails and telephone calls to them.

These centres cater for different locations.  Bishop Creighton House serves the whole borough, as does the Elgin Centre for drop in services and activities.  Referred day care clients at the Elgin Centre are only from the north of the borough, as are all clients of the Masbro Elders Project and Good Neighbours Scheme.  The Stevenage Road Day Centre and the Grove Neighbourhood Centre only serve their local area.  This is partly due to lack of resources.  (See section 3.3 and 3.4 for a full description of the services offered by these organisations.)  Only the Elgin Centre provides a comprehensive advice and information service, including outreach.

Bishop Creighton House, the Elgin Centre and the Grove Neighbourhood Centre all use volunteers to help deliver their services.  The latter has difficulties in recruiting and holding onto volunteers as they have no dedicated volunteer coordinator.  For recruitment purposes, adverts are placed in local newspapers, and the Elgin Centre makes use of the Notting Hill Housing Group’s Volunteer Department.

The Elgin Centre has extensive links across the borough with local voluntary and statutory organisations, while the Grove Centre has informal links with Fulham Good Neighbours and Bishop Creighton House.  These three organisations sometimes refer clients to one another.  Elgin Centre, Grove Centre and Masbro would all be interested in displaying leaflets and information about their services in an Advice and Information Centre in Sycamore Gardens.  However, none of the organisations would be interested in holding events or activities at a centre in Sycamore Gardens.

All except the Elgin Centre are at full capacity and have waiting lists for their services, although they would want to expand their customer base if funding and resources allowed.  The Grove Centre had to close down their befriending service due to lack of funding.

Gaps in services were identified as:

  • Bishop Creighton House: Home help/befriending/visiting schemes. LBH&F eligibility criteria has been raised so home help and carers are only available to clients in the higher needs groups.  So there is a need to fill the gap for those who can’t get help from Social Services.  All the organisations providing befriending services are over-subscribed.
  • Stevenage Day Centre: Need more day centres.  LBH&F used to run three, now they have only one.  The other day centre is in Elgin Close: it is run by Notting Hill Housing Group and funded by the council.
  • Elgin Centre: “There is advice available, but there are possible gaps where it is not being delivered to those who may need it. The reciprocal leafleting/signposting serve at the centre can help fill such gaps by taking the information to the wider community.”
  • Grove Neighbourhood Centre: Training for carers.
  • Masbro Elders Project: Access to decent care support at home (carers). Most carers provided by Social Services don’t receive the necessary training and therefore do not support their clients as needed.  The Information and Assessment Team at the council are not very sympathetic and older people find them intimidating. Also, older people often do not understand what is available and what services they are eligible for. As a result, they are scared to say what they really want or need and so don’t receive the support they actually need.  Also, LBH&F are starting to charge clients for carers.

Elgin Centre, Grove Centre and Masbro all responded that they did not believe there is a need for an Advice and Information Centre in Sycamore Gardens because they believe there are enough such centre already.  Masbro stated that there is a great need for an outreach Advice and Information service for those who have mobility problems, are isolated or housebound.  This service is needed to cover the north of the borough.  These three organisations all agreed that the Sycamore Gardens location would be accessible to older people.  Bishop Creighton House and Stevenage Road Day Centre responded ‘don’t know’.

Grove Centre stated that if an Advice and Information Centre was established at Gloucester House “security will be severely compromised if the public are to be allowed access to the premises.  This will greatly impact negatively on the quality of life of the residents.  Entry would have to be on an invite only basis, which would not work for the sort of centre that is being considered.”

All agreed that there probably is a need for more befriending, community transport and assisted shopping services in the north of the borough.

4.3 Stakeholders

The following stakeholders were contacted to find out their views on the needs of older people in the borough:

  • Better Government Consultative Forum for Older People
  • Hammersmith and Fulham LINK
  • Hammersmith and Fulham Pensioners Forum
  • Hammersmith and Fulham Council Older People’s Team
  • Hammersmith and Fulham Volunteer Centre
  • Age Concern Shop (Shepherds Bush)

The only organisation not to respond to consultation request is CAVSA.  This is despite the researcher emailing and telephoning the identified contact several times.  This is because CAVSA is incredibly busy and receives a very high number of varying requests daily and must priorities those that link to their statutory duties.  The contact was as helpful as he could be on the telephone, and would be happy to be contacted again.

Each stakeholder provides a different range of services, all of which cover the whole of the borough, thus giving them comprehensive insight into services available, gaps in services and need.  Better Government and LINK have the same chair, so he responded on behalf of both groups. Services provided are as follows:

  • The Better Government Consultative Forum is for residents 50+ and covers all local issues including health, social services, education, environment, planning and transport.
  • H&F LINk provides investigative and representational services for all borough residents on all health and social care issues.
  • H&F Pensioners Forum: Campaigning on behalf of older people to improve local services and ensure older people have a voice, and to tackle local issues.  Information and advice is provided regularly by way of newsletter and open meetings.
  • H&F Older People’s Team are responsible for all Social Services care and support provision across the borough. (See section 3.1 for full details.)
  • Hammersmith and Fulham Volunteer Centre: Match volunteers to opportunities.  Coordinate volunteer activity and employment.
  • Age Concern Shop (Shepherds Bush): Older people come into the shop and ask for help/advice/information, so Teresa directs them to the appropriate source.
    • This indicates that there is a need for advice and information here but older people don’t know where else to go – they know Age Concern because it is a national, famous charity.  Consultation was undertaken with the shop manager, who also used to chair Age Concern.

All these organisations work in partnership or have links with an extensive range of statutory and voluntary organisations that work with older people, both local and regional.  Bishop Creighton House, the Hammersmith and Fulham Older People’s Project, North End Pensioners Club, Addison Pensioners Club and the Ex-Carers Group are all subscribed members of the Pensioners Forum.

Other gaps in services were identified:

  • Better Gov and LINK: A drop in centre is not needed for residents in the ‘white’ ethnic group.  The real need is with the smaller BME communities, particularly in the north of the borough.  These groups have much higher and more complex needs, including not having English as their first language and are not well served for advice, information and support.
  • Pensioners Forum: All necessary services are provided in the borough but the gap is not enough volunteers to facilitate these services.
  • LBH&F Older People’s Team: “More information would need to be more readily available to the socially isolated and to those who would not normally access council funded services.”
  • Volunteer Centre: There is a defined lack of resources for voluntary organisations, resulting in a lack of opportunities for volunteers.  Resources are needed for volunteer coordinators in these organisations, and other similar roles, to enable them to facilitate the recruitment, training, support and retention of volunteers.
  • Age Concern Shop: There is not enough high needs care/extra care for older people.  She gave an example of an elderly man who, when he needed to move into supported housing, was moved to another town, away from the place he had lived all his life and the people he knew there.  He is now missing.

When asked whether there was a need for an Advice and Information Centre in Sycamore Gardens, the responses were:

  • Better Gov and LINK: It is probably worth putting an advice and information centre in Gloucester House. BUT the centre would need to link with CTAS translation service to ensure language needs are met.
  • Pensioners Forum: No, there are enough A&I centres in the borough, and spread out across the whole borough.
  • LBH&F Older People’s Team: Yes – We need to create areas where residents can socialise in an informal setting at the same time being able to access resources within the borough
  • Volunteer Centre: Don’t know.
  • Age Concern Shop: There is a need for an advice and information centre in the area, but only if the centre provides the following as core services:
  1. Support around welfare benefits for older people – particularly attendance allowance and direct payments – such as identifying benefits available and filling in forms and understanding the processes.  There is a lot of unmet need in this area.
  2. These processes are so complex and very hard to understand for older people, particularly those from BME communities where English is often not the first language.
  3. There are also a number of benefits that are available for older people, e.g. winter heat payments and discounts for council tax and utility bills.
  4. Support for older people having to organise their own care plans.
  5. Dedicated outreach for isolated or housebound older people.

Better Gov stated that Sycamore Gardens is accessible to older people, but would not serve the greatest need, which is further north in the borough.  The Older People’s Team do not believe this is an accessible location, while the Pensioners Forum and Volunteer Development Agency did not know.

The Age Concern shop manager stated that Sycamore Gardens is generally an accessible location for older people to reach, as there are good transport links, however, the premises may be quite hard to find for some people.  The centre would not be accessible for older people with mobility problems – they would need to be picked up from home and dropped off at the centre, then collected and taken home again later.

Age Concern also stated that there is a need for more support services, such as befriending and community transport, and particularly assisted shopping, in the north of the borough – with the most need around Bloemfontein Road on the White City Estate.  This is because, historically, Fulham (the south of the borough) has received the most charity funding, and houses the most services.  The defined divide between north and south of the borough, in terms of older people being able to travel from one to the other, means that Hammersmith is suffering from a definite lack of these services.  This tallies with the feedback given by the Better Gov and LINK Chair.

Potential challenges to setting up an Advice and Information Centre in Sycamore Gardens were identified as:

  • Linguistic, cultural and geographic issues
  • Finding enough volunteers to provide all the services
  • Funding
  • Opening hours would need to vary as older people would be less likely to visit the centre when the evenings get shorter as they would not want to walk down a small street in the dark.

4.4 Sycamore House residents

The researcher first interviewed the Scheme Warden, and then held a focus group with a small group of 9 residents.  The focus group was held on 30th November 2008 at 10.45 a.m. in the Sycamore House communal lounge.  There were 9 attendees plus Joye, the warden.  The researcher facilitated the group and recorded the discussion from start to finish.  A CD was made of the recording and sent to the WRVS Territory Manager for London.  For the purposes of this transcription, SH stands for Sycamore House, and GH for Gloucester House.

Questionnaires were distributed to the residents some time before hand, but the return rate was extremely low, with many questions left unanswered.  However, the information needed was gained during the focus group discussion, which was a valuable exercise in finding out residents’ views on the setting up of an Advice and Information Centre at Gloucester House.  The key findings are as follows.

Where do you get your information?

  • Town Hall – can take a while to get there due to traffic
  • Council can visit tenants at home
  • Advice Bureau in Uxbridge Road
  • Advice and Employment Shepherds Bush
  • Joye is a good source of information
  • “Plenty of places”
  • There are other places to go, “like Bradmore Park Road (Grove Centre) that’s been there for years.  The one over there as well.” (Elgin Close Community Resource Centre.)

What problems do you have in getting the information you need?

  • One tenant had difficulty getting to the Glenthorne Road Housing Office for incapacity benefit advice when she became disabled.
  • Very difficult to get any information over the phone – have to go there in person.
  • Elgin Close – “don’t really go there”, but one tenant has been there in the past.  Aware of all offered there – activities, info, lunch club.
  • Elgin still might be a bit too far for those with mobility problems.
  • There are one or two residents that rely on dial a ride and can’t get about on their own.

Would you want an advice and information centre set up in this area?

  • Might be useful for those that can’t walk far or use public transport.
  • Would there be enough footfall to keep the place going?
  • Most people are capable of doing things for themselves.

Do you have any concerns if a centre was opened up at Gloucester House?

  • “It’s always been a private place.  No one knew we were here – I won’t feel so safe; won’t be ours anymore, will be for any tom, dick and harry that wants to come here.”
  • “It’s about security as much as anything else.”
  • “You’ve got to know this street as well – cars being broken into every day; old boys over here drinking.  We’ll have every thief under the sun come here – we’ve always been a nice little community; why would we want to spoil it?”
  • “You’re talking about spending money again just like the government – spend, spend, spend!”
  • Services such as befriending and community centres
  • A brief discussion was held about the number of services closing, such as small community centres.  This seems to be increasing in the area – smaller services are unable to sustain funding and other resources
  • We don’t need exercise classes – “we vacuum and do the gardening, that’s our exercise!”
  • Have use of a computer and Internet here so don’t need to go to any cyber cafes.

Do you go to any cafes in this area?

  • “They’re too expensive.”
  • “We have got everything you mentioned right here”: this is our café and where we socialise; and if you want a hairdresser or something, they come here.
  • Several go to the pub across the road for Sunday dinner.

Shops and facilities in the area

  • “We have everything we need here.”
  • Able to use transport – buses to take us where we need and tube nearby, Use Computer Cab (assisted travel black cab service – pay only £1.50 per journey up to £11 fare).
  • Lots of little shops around here.
  • New Westfield shopping centre.
  • Don’t have milkman deliveries. This is due to problems around letting them in – have to give him keys/door codes and this did not work out when implemented previously.
  • Don’t have newspapers delivered for the same reason as above.

Do you need or want a mobile library service in this area?

  • There was a council one but they stopped it.
  • They go to John Becks but not Sycamore Gardens.
  • One down Uxbridge Road.
  • Show of hands – many would use it.
  • Joye stated that she could ask the Council to come back here – but residents would have to use it regularly – in the past, after a month interest in and use of the service dies down or they can’t find the books they need to give back.

Anything else that you used to be able to get but now can’t?

  • Manicurist.
  • Need to keep the kitchen at Gloucester House.
  • Joye: HUC won’t keep a kitchen that size if not used/needed/part of plans (i.e. if no lunch club will be offered).

Use of communal areas at both Sycamore House and Gloucester House

Joye mentions that the communal lounge at Sycamore House may be converted into 2 flats, so residents will lose their communal space.

  • “Why change something that is good?”
  • “Where would we play our Bingo?”

Concerns were raised about whether Sycamore House will stay as sheltered housing – residents feel that their homes and way of life may be threatened.

Do you ever use the communal area in Gloucester House?

  • “No, we’re not allowed.”
  • All their socialising is done in the Sycamore House lounge.
  • We don’t need to – we do everything here (in the Sycamore House lounge).

How do you feel about sharing a communal area with Gloucester House residents who will have high care needs?

  • SH residents do not want to mix with GH residents – all were in agreement on this.
  • When works were being done at Sycamore House in the past, the SH residents had to use the communal area at Gloucester House, together with GH residents. Almost all SH residents complained about the smell (from incontinence) and that was just over a period of one week.
  • All agreed that the nursing home environment is pitiful and depressing and not something they want to have to experience until they have to – “we are all able at the moment”.
  • If they are forced to share communal space with GH residents, SH residents will end up staying in their flats, which will greatly reduce their quality of life.
  • “We would lose all our regular events and activities” (bingo, parties) and “will we have to stop everything at 7 p.m. because the GH residents will want to go to bed and the noise will disturb them” (e.g. music from a party)?
  • Joye responds that soundproofing will mean this is not a problem.

Is there a need for any of the following services in this area, or for you?

Befriending/home visits

  • “No one has home help any more do they?”
  • No one here has meals on wheels or home help.
  • We don’t know anyone that is isolated and could do with a visit.
  • All agreed that GH residents will need befriending.
  • SH residents – perhaps in the future, in ten years’ time, but definitely not in the near future.

Community transport

  • Dial a ride is available whenever needed and families come in their cars.
  • Don’t need any more transport services.
  • Only 3 SH residents have mobility problems and use assisted travel of any sort.

Lunch clubs

  • Not needed for SH residents, they do their own cooking and for parties they organise and provide everything themselves.
  • All agreed that GH residents would need this sort of service as they won’t be able to cook for themselves or even heat a meal using a microwave.

4.5 Residents in the wider community

4.5.1 Postal questionnaires

Below are the key findings from the questionnaire distributed to residents in the wider community within a two mile radius of Sycamore Gardens. There were 25 respondents in total.  Of these:

  1. 72% were female and 28% male
  2. 44% were aged 76-85; 36% were aged 66-75; 16% were 65 or under and 4% were aged over 86.
  3. The ethnic breakdown of respondents was not very wide with 52% describing themselves as black and 44% as white.
  4. 68% live alone; 24% live with their family and 4% live in sheltered accommodation.
  5. 66% live in Hammersmith, in the following roads:
    • Hardingham Gardens
    • Castle Town Road
    • Maurice Street
    • Bloemfountain Road
    • Goldhawk Road
    • Munster Road
    • Fulham Palace Road
    • Hofland Road
  6. Respondents are most likely to use public transport or walk to their destination. Only 4% uses Dial a Ride.
  7. 52% stated that there is no Advice and Information centre in their area.
  8. Most considered the location and a telephone helpline to be the most important factors about an Advice and Information Centre.  Least important factors were social activities and computer/IT facilities.
  9. Most get their advice and information from family and friends.
  10. Most prefer to get information by leaflet/letter or by telephone.
  11. Most were interested in information about pensions and benefits, followed equally by tax and finance, home care or support and community new
  12. 84% agreed there was a need for an advice and information centre in Hammersmith.
  13. 48% stated that the Sycamore Gardens location was not convenient to them.
  14. Interest was highest in a lunch club and small screen cinema at the proposed centre.
  15. Most replied they would ‘never’ visit the centre, followed equally by ‘most days’ and ‘rarely’.
  16. 36% have contact with other people every day and 40% 2 or 3 times a week. 4% said less than once a month.
  17. Interest in WRVS services was broken down as:
    • 32% assisted shopping
    • 28% no reply (interpreted as not interested in any of the services)
    • 20% befriending/visits from a volunteer
    • 12% lunch club
    • 8% community shopping

These findings have produced mixed results, with some respondents very interested in an Advice and Information Centre in Hammersmith/Shepherds Bush, and the activities and services it may provide.  At the same time, a large proportion of respondents appear to be mobile, independent and capable of meeting their own needs in terms of advice and information and so do not see a need for a centre in their area.

4.5.2 North End Pensioners Club focus group

There were 8 participants in the focus group, not including the researcher:

  • One male, and seven females.
  • 2 live in the target area of Shepherds Bush
  • 4 live in West Kensington
  • 1 lives in Fulham palace road
  • 1 lives in Kensington and Chelsea

If you need to get to an advice and information centre, is transport a problem?

  • “Dial a Ride are no good”
  • “Don’t come when you order them”
  • One attendee is having regular problems with dial a ride: they make errors with the booking date or they arrive very late (20 minutes+, and this week they were 45 minutes late on one occassion)
  • “On the whole they have been good but I can tell you full well Dial a Ride does not come up.” (To scratch, I think this means)

Do any other organisations provide community transport?

  • “Just Dial a Ride”
  • Capital Cabs and Computer Cabs (assisted travel) were mentioned but they are rarely used by this group.

Would more minibus services, like Dial a Ride, be useful to you?

  • A resounding yes
  • “Everyone should be picked up in one bus, but they sent one bus for (indicates two of the attendees) and another for (indicates a third attendee).”

You live:

  • Alone in a council flat
  • “But I’ve got four daughters that are in and out all the time”
  • Alone in a council flat
  • Alone in a council flat
  • Alone in my own house
  • With my family
  • With husband
  • With sons
  • “With my brother” – their mother died this year, waiting to see if they can keep the house

Do you know where to go for advice and information?

  • Initial response: blank looks, faint shaking of the head
  • “I know where to go for everything” (she has been chair of the Pensioners Forum and involved in other local groups.)
  • “CAB by West Kensington Estate – they give you a free number but you end up hanging on and hanging on or it just rings and rings”
  • Age Concern
  • Hammersmith – outside the tube station “I think it’s run by the council”
  • Hammersmith Town Hall
  • Two attendees live in a trust scheme so they go to their warden / superintendent
  • “My daughters are always in and out so they do it all for me”
  • “There used to be council offices in Rockley Road; that was very convenient for me but it closed down about a year ago– since then I have to go to the Town Hall.”
    • This is one of the attendees that lives in the research project target area – to get to the Town Hall “I have to get to Hammersmith by bus then get another bus down King Street.”
  • Traffic can make journeys very long around the flyover

Would you like to have an advice and information centre in the north of the borough, (north of the flyover)?

  • Yes
  • “There’s a community centre in Rockley Road (Rockley Road Community Centre) by Shepherds Bush Green.  That would be a convenient place. (It’s) used for voting and they hold various meetings in there.  I suppose they do have leaflets, I don’t know.”
  • “There is the Shepherds Bush Library, that’s quite good.”
  • The two attendees who live in the target area know of the Elgin Centre but
  • “The problem is it’s in that road and sometimes you don’t know where it is.  I don’t think many people know of it.”
  • Age Concern is mentioned again but they are south of the borough

Where you live, what’s the nearest advice and information centre?

  • Hammersmith and Fulham Citizens Advice Bureau at Mund Street – but have to queue for too long (For the West Kensington residents)
  • Don’t know
  • Age Concern
  • Kensington Town Hall (even though she is an LBH&F resident – it is the nearest for her)
  • “There is very little in the north of the borough”
  • “They are very spread out, the nearest one I know is on Askew Road and that’s a library”

What is important to you in an Advice & Information centre?

  • Location and accessibility (transport): this was the most important aspect for all.
  • Tea/coffee shop. “I’m always happy to have a sit down and a cup of coffee anywhere.”
    • Attendees were asked whether, if an Advice & Information centre had a café in it, would it make them more likely to go there: the answer was a resounding yes. “You can meet friends there.”
  • Range of information: information needs to be suitable for everyone, and in an accessible format; “should have a bigger range, but they try their best”.

Would you want the staff there to be trained so that they know about what advice and information is available?

  • A unanimous yes
  • “Somebody goes there in real trouble you need someone there who knows what they are talking about and how to help.”
  • All are happy with the idea of volunteers as long as they get the appropriate training.

Would you want community transport to pick you up and bring you to the centre, and take you home?

  • Yes: this would be very important for four of the attendees
  • Buses don’t always lower platform for wheelchairs: “the number of times I’ve seen that”, and get so packed: “they don’t allow enough room for pushchairs”
  • No: three attendees would not have a problem getting there themselves
  • “No, my daughters will take me”

How do you prefer to get your information?

  • Email or Internet: “a lot of elderly people don’t have it”
  • Leaflet or letter is the most popular method: ‘Hammersmith are very good in sending out information – newspapers and booklets and things like that’; it is “better by post”
  • “Telephone’s okay as long as you don’t have to keep hanging on and hanging on”
  • “I have difficulty hearing on the phone (even though) I have two hearing aids and (adapted) telephones”

Do you know where Sycamore Gardens is?

  • Yes (four attendees).  I asked them ‘If there was an Advice & Information centre and café there, would you go’: the response was a non-committed “yes”.
  • No
  • I describe the exact location to them): “No, it’s too awkward. I’d have to get two buses.”

Would you be interested in:

  • Lunch clubs: No interest from the group.
  • Reminiscence group: general indifference.  “Age Concern used to do one”; “it’s a nice idea but I don’t know where you’re going to do it”, “some of the older people should be encouraged to do reminiscences “cos they got information about things that happened many years ago”
  • Reading group: “Better Government do a reading group”
  • Small screen cinema: general indifference. “If they were oldie films that they know”

How often do you have contact with other people?

  • Four attendees responded ‘every day’
  • 2-3 times a week
  • “The people that belong to my flats I see, and I come here every Monday”
  • “My daughters are in and out all the time”

Have you heard of WRVS?

  • 3 had heard of WRVS

4.5.3 Other focus groups

The researcher held discussions with two organisations about organising a focus group with their clients or members.  They were the Elgin Close Community Resource Centre, and the Better Government Consultative Forum for Older People.  Both responded that they would be happy to help arrange a focus group in the new year, but not before because the run up to Christmas is a very busy time, with even more events, activities and lunch clubs.  The contacts for these organisations are:

A discussion was held with Joan Henry, who chairs the Ex-Carers group.  Joan is a good contact as she regularly attends meetings and forums about local issues and services and is informed about support and advice/information available across the borough.  Her home number is 0208 746 1856.

  • Joan suggested a focus group could be held as part of their next meeting (it is also their Christmas party) on Tuesday 2nd December 2008, between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.  She will select up to ten members from all over the borough, who she knows will be interested in a discussion and have something to say.  The WRVS territory manager for London has been informed so that he can contact her to arrange this.
  • Joan also suggested she make contact – on behalf of this research – with Askew Road Church, which is multi-faith, as members of the congregation may also be interested in attending a focus group.

The researcher did attempt to contact the Khanum Women’s Group (afro-Caribbean) but with no luck.  Time did not allow for further attempts.  The contact there is Vera Hayward on 0207 381 5068.  It would be worth contacting this group as a potential source of focus group attendees.

The members of the Older Person’s Project mainly live in West Kensington and would not travel to the north of the borough.  It was therefore agreed with the organiser of the project that a focus group with its members would not be highly relevant to this research.  However, she is happy to be contacted further if more information is required from her: Pauline Hutchinson 0207 385 6695

4.6 Paisley High Point Case Study

The Paisley High Point centre for older people opened on 3rd September 2008 and was marketed heavily in the press and through leaflet distribution both by handing them out and posting them.  All MPs, MSPs, councillors and other stakeholders were invited, and although many were not able to attend the opening, interest was such that many made appointments to visit the centre individually.

People are developing confidence in the centre and relationships have been
formed between volunteers, customers and across both groups. Volunteers clocked up 342 hours in September 2008.

The biggest success story has been the volunteer support and the support
from the local community.  High Point’s key challenge currently is that people are now asking for more varied information but the centre is have difficulty catching all enquiries.

A great deal of research, consultation and viability exercises was undertaken to establish whether there was a need for and desires for the planned centre, as well as how viable it was in terms of funding, resources, sustainability and footfall.  A report was provided to detail the findings, and is summarised in Appendix 8.  These findings are valuable to this project because they highlight the complexities of setting up an advice and information centre for older people, and provide examples of good practice as part of the process.

4.7 Peterborough Senior Stop Case Study

The WRVS Senior Stop in Peterborough has been open since 1996 and is targeted at older people.  The centre offers information, which is displayed on Information Boards and divided into categories such as pensions and health, as well as entertainment and refreshments.  The centre also provides a small book exchange, DVD and video facility, games area, computer with printer and photocopier, restrooms and a café offering drinks, sandwiches and snacks.  The centre is also a meeting place for new and regular clients.

There are approximately 30 WRVS volunteers working at Senior Stop, who are mostly in their 80s; they have been volunteering for a long time so are highly committed and provide a support system for one another.

The personal contact provided to clients by the volunteers is crucial to the success of the centre.  It is a way of socialising for clients, and the warmth and friendliness of the volunteers motivates people to come again and again.  The café also plays its part, as clients like to pay a small amount for their refreshments, as they then feel more comfortable about sitting down and spending as long as they like at the centre.

The most asked about information is:

  • Travel, including dial a ride/assisted travel
  • Directions to services and facilities in town
  • Theatre and entertainment
  • Pensions
  • Energy and heating
  • Disability benefits
  • Mobile services that come to your home

The location of the Senior Stop is a central and convenient location because it is:

  • Easy to find
  • Well sign posted
  • Near to shops
  • Close to the multi storey car park
  • Near to public transport and taxis
  • Close to the passport office, which brings more people in

The centre records details about centre visitors, including where they live.  The majority live within an 8-mile radius, particularly the regulars, though people come from as far as Cambridge, which is 30 miles away.

The key challenges faced by the centre are:

  • Not enough volunteers
  • The centre can get crowded due to its popularity, so a bigger space may be needed in the near future
  • Another room/more space to hold activities or talks in a way that wont disturb those who don’t want to participate
  • A need for someone to help clients fill in forms
  • The computer facilities are rarely used – perhaps bring someone in to help/tutor clients with IT

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