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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

5. Conclusions

5.1 What are the gaps in advice, information and support services in the target area?

Although the borough of Hammersmith and Fulham is well served generally with regards to services for older people, these services are more concentrated in the Fulham area.  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.

Both residents and service providers identified unmet need and a lack of services in the Hammersmith area, with what it available very spread out.  The White City Estate, which is one of the most deprived areas in the country, was identified as having the highest levels of unmet need for older people’s support and services.  Hammersmith and Fulham Council are currently implementing an extensive regeneration project in this area.

A key area of unmet need, which was identified by many of the service providers and stakeholders interviewed, is outreach work around advice and information that targets isolated and housebound older people, and those with physical and learning disabilities.  This target group are the least likely to know where to get information and advice, including finding out what service and support are available, and are unable to travel independently.  Elgin Centre and Bishop Creighton provide outreach but not to the extent they would like.  They, and Masbro, agree that much more of this is needed.

A recurring issue brought up by the focus group consultees and the Chair of the Ex-Carers Group is the unreliability of community transport in the borough, which is provided by Dial a Ride. All agree that there is a need for more organisations to provide this service.  This is a crucial service that enables those who cannot travel independently to visit community centres, advice and information centres, participate in activities and do their shopping.  Without community transport, some older people are housebound and become isolated from their community.

Other key areas not sufficiently covered by existing services are:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Support for older people having to organise their own care plans. (Shanti and Elgin centres do this, but resources for this are limited.)

Both service providers and residents in focus groups stated that there was a defined lack of resources for voluntary and community organisations, and that several services have had to close down.

5.2 Identifying need

Has the research shown that there is a need in the area for:

An advice and information centre

Reactions were mixed as to whether there is a need for an A&I centre in Sycamore Gardens: service providers and stakeholders were divided, with some stating that there are enough such centres already, and others stating the need for more advice and information and support services in the north of the borough.  This research has not yielded enough feedback from residents, however, which would give more insight into need and potential service users.

The questionnaire responses and focus groups show that consultation did not reach many individuals from BME communities or who are over 86 / isolated / have physical or learning disabilities.  These groups have the most unmet need and are the key target client base of an Advice and Information Centre and Café. Those who did participate stated that they have contact with other people on a regular basis, and therefore would not be classed as isolated, although several individuals would benefit from more social contact and activities.

This indicates clearly that more targeted consultation needs to be undertaken with isolated or housebound older people, particularly as this is the group that has the highest level of unmet need in terms of advice and support services.  This consultation with residents must include Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) groups if the proposed project is to cater to needs of all older people in the community.  (See recommendations in section 5.6.)

Hammersmith and Fulham is a very diverse borough, and both Age Concern and Better Gov/LINK have specified that the greatest need is with BME communities particularly in Bloemfontein Road, just off the Uxbridge Road and approximately 700 metres north of Sycamore Gardens (as the crow flies).

Consideration must be given to the fact that the majority of older people prefer to get information in a leaflet or letter through their door (as confirmed by consultation responses), or over the telephone as long as they do not have to be left holding for long.  Also, as shown in section 2.1.1 older people don’t use Advice & Information facilities very much, relying on friends, family and their own knowledge instead.  They are interested, however, in having somewhere to meet friends and get out of the house (as shown in the consultation responses).

A hub for WRVS services

Yes, there is always a need for more of these services in the target area as current providers are oversubscribed or lack resources to expand their services/take on volunteers.  However, consideration must be given to which groups have the most unmet need, including the BME communities.  Any assistance in providing volunteers to local organisations would also be appreciated.

The services identified as being the most needed were befriending/home visits, assisted shopping and community transport as there are a lot of isolated residents with unmet need.  In addition, many services, particularly befriending services, are over subscribed and have very long waiting lists.  Lunch clubs are always popular too.

Is there a strong case for establishing the centre and/or hub at Gloucester House?

Reactions from both professionals and residents were mixed as to whether Sycamore Gardens would be an accessible location.  The general feeling was that it was accessible to those living in the immediate area, otherwise a number of different buses would need to be taken to reach it and older people are not prepared to make a long journey unless absolutely necessary. The location would not be accessible to older people who are housebound or have mobility problems, as they would require transport to and from the centre.

The 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 reflects the very strong concerns of Sycamore House residents, and this issue should be considered very carefully if a centre is to be established at this location.  The manager of the Grove Centre suggested that “entry would have to be on an invite only basis, which would not work for the sort of centre that is being considered.”

5.3 How could other organisations feed / link into a new advice and information centre?

All the organisations contact for this research have both formal and informal links with other local organisations working for older people.  This shows that there is a strong partnership working ethos in the borough, and consultation responses have shown that many of the organisations would be interested in developing links or partnerships with HUC and WRVS is appropriate and relevant.  These partnerships could range from sharing information and experience to signposting, and from hosting activities in the proposed centre to linking services and volunteer referrals. (See Appendix 9 for a contact list of these organisations.)

5.4 Should volunteers be used to support the centre?

As shown in the Peterborough and Paisley case studies, 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 volunteers are considered to be the heart of such a venture. The research described in section 2.1.2 also confirms this.

It is very important, however, that if volunteers are used to run an advice and information facility, they must be appropriately trained so they know about what advice and info is available and which specialist services to refer customers to.  As one focus group attendee put it: “Somebody goes there in real trouble you need someone there who knows what they are talking about and how to help.”

Where and how to recruit volunteers in H&F

Contact should be made with both the Hammersmith and Fulham Volunteer Centre, who coordinate volunteer activity in the borough, and across West London.  They stated that they currently do not have enough opportunities for their volunteers and are able to match individuals with suitable volunteering opportunities.

Are there any barriers to recruiting volunteers for this project?

Lack of resources is the main barrier to recruiting volunteers.  An organisation must have a dedicated volunteer coordinator to ensure sustainability, and provide the appropriate training and support.  The experience of many of the service providers is that without a volunteer coordinator, an organisation has less capacity to recruit and retain its volunteers.

5.5 What needs to be considered when setting up an Advice & Information centre?

There are several key aspects that need to be carefully considered when setting up such a project.

  • Funds. How the centre will be funded, including resources such as staffing and volunteers.
  • Risk assessments and compliance with regulation and statutory duties, including CRB checks on all staff and volunteers, and food hygiene standards/food safety implications if providing refreshments and food.
  • Use of the centre, for example, will there be enough footfall to keep the centre going, and what will the opening hours be?
  • Detailed discussions with individuals living at the proposed site regarding the security implications of an open house policy at the premises.

5.6 Recommendations for further work

  1. The postal questionnaire should be sent to all sheltered and residential schemes within a one-mile radius of Sycamore Gardens. A reasonable length of time will need to be allowed for them to complete and return their responses, in order to maximise the amount of information gained. It may be better to arrange a focus group at each scheme, however the tenants may not be up to this.)  This must also include culturally specific schemes, catering to Black and Minority Ethnic communities.
  2. Age Concern and the Pensioners Forum should be contacted in order to obtain the mailing lists for their newsletters.  This would allow for the postal questionnaire to be sent out to residents in the wider community.
  3. Research should be undertaken into culturally specific services and support provided to BME communities by the Council, community groups and other organisations. The researcher was specifically instructed not to focus on BME groups as part of this research.  However, without both a service mapping exercise and consultation with BME older people, the research into a proposed Advice and Information Centre in Sycamore Gardens is incomplete, as it misses out a large proportion of older people in the borough.  (See Appendix 1 for a list of community groups catering to BME communities in Hammersmith and Fulham.)
  4. A copy of this report should go out to the following stakeholders and service providers:
    • LBH&F Older People’s Team
    • The H&F Pensioners Forum
    • The chair of Better Gov and LINK
    • The manager of the age concern greyhound road centre
    • Director of Age Concern in Hammersmith and Fulham
    • The older people’s managers at HAFAD and MIND
    • The manager of the Elgin Road Centre
    • Older People’s Manager at Bishop Creighton House
    • Managers of: H&F CAB, H&F Community Law Centre, Advice and Employment Shepherds Bush

    It is important to get their feedback on this research, as this process often serves to highlight further issues or information and is the final stage of a consultation process.

  5. The White City Estate Regeneration project may be a useful source of information, resources and funding for new services that really fill a current gap in services. If, once all research is completed, it becomes evident that Sycamore Gardens may not be the best location for the proposed centre, but HUC still want to go ahead with the project somewhere else, it is worth considering linking with the regeneration project, if possible and appropriate.

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