6 Sep 2019

Red Cross and Royal Voluntary Service developed the Camau Cadarn Positive Steps (CCPS) programme in order to help people maintain their independence at home. The project draws on the strengths of two different agencies, working in partnership, and provides support for people to manage complex situations that affect their wellbeing, and to engage positively with their communities.

Previous work undertaken by Red Cross with older people who were lonely and isolated has built up its experience of re engaging people with their communities. It recognises that its particular strength lies in working with people who were experiencing some kind of crisis.   When individuals are referred to the Positive Steps programme, Red Cross staff and volunteers are able to assess and address issues as required to achieve a measure of stability and  psycho social improvement.

If there is need of further support at this stage (usually after an 8-12 week period), Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) volunteers are able to assist in working with individuals for up to a further period of 12 weeks.  Individuals can have multiple needs and often there are confidence issues.  Some people need one to one support over a considerable period of time in order to access the ongoing services or networks that can help them.

In this way a 'joined up' pathway of support is provided for people who fall short of the criteria for accessing statutory support but who nevertheless are in need of help to re-establish their lives.

'The criteria for accessing acute services is tightening due to the reduced capacity of our statutory services.' said Dave Worrall, Positive Steps Project Lead, Red Cross Cymru.  'This leaves a gap in provision, where appropriate alternative assistance is called for'.

What do volunteers do?
Red Cross volunteers work closely with staff, talking with individuals about what matters to them, offering emotional support and working with them to draw up and implement a plan of action.

A service user in Ystradgynlais, for example, was referred following an emergency operation. Previous life events, including relationship break up, a fine for minor breaches in his food retail business and death of two pets had triggered an episode of depression and he had come to live a reclusive life behind closed curtains. Self neglect, hoarding and the disrepair of his property all followed.

The Red Cross caseworker and volunteer talked with him to set realistic goals to work towards. They helped him arrange for someone to come and do some cleaning and laundry  twice a week so that the house would be less cluttered and he would have clean clothes.    They spoke on his behalf with the doctor's surgery to arrange supplies of incontinence pants on prescription which had initially been refused and spoke with the benefits agency requesting a judicial review of his benefit entitlement, which had recently been reduced.

Care and Repair were contacted to carry out an assessment and provide equipment to assist with day to day mobility.  He was taken out for the first time in 2 years and was able to get cash and go to the supermarket.  Arrangements were made for him to attend the local day hospital to provide opportunity for socialising.

After 8 weeks of support, the service user's mood had improved, he was eating some food and he said he felt humbled that someone cared for him.  His benefits were reassessed and previous entitlements restored.  He gained hope in the possibility of leading a more normal life in the near future.

Royal Voluntary Service received a Positive Steps referral for an 80 year old gentleman who had suffered a stroke. His son made the referral through concern that his father had not been out and had lost all his confidence since the stroke. Royal Voluntary Service matched a volunteer with the gentleman, who met him with him weekly. She found a local stoke club and suggested that they attended. After some gentle persuasion and encouragement they attended the group together. He was grateful for the support to attend the group and enjoyed it from the first visit.

As the Positive Steps support came to an end the volunteer put transport arrangements in place which would allow the gentleman to continue attending the club. The volunteer accompanied him on the initial trip and now he is confident enough to go to the club independently.

This is an excellent example of how Positive Steps can help to improve an individual's confidence and reconnect with their community.

Measuring the impact
The project is being evaluated by Welsh Institute of Health and Social care and a report is expected to be available in September. Individuals who have given consent have been contacted six month after the involvement of Red Cross and RVS ends, in order to gauge the impact of the project on individuals' lives.

Volunteers recognise the positive impact that their involvement has and find a sense of satisfaction with the support they are able to provide.

Challenges faced and lessons learned
There are challenges that arise from two organisations working in partnership - differences of culture, different systems, for example for managing volunteer recruitment, and the coordination of data in order to be able to report to a number of different stakeholders.  GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) has not been a particular problem, but has been managed in line with requirements.

As to lessons learned: 'volunteers need to be very well trained and supported in order to help people to face complex and stressful situations' said Dave Worrall, 'more joint training could be developed in the future, with in house and external training being open to volunteers of both organisations.

Steve Amos, Royal Voluntary Service Head of Commissioned Services Wales says 'Our commitment to the partnership with the Red Cross at all levels, and our willingness to learn from each other and the partnership process, is what makes Positive Steps successful. We are working together to ensure that the older people we are supporting receive the best possible care from both organisations.'

'Each partner needs to be able to hold the other to account' continued Dave Worrall 'Relevant management staff meet regularly in 14 different locations around Wales, in order to report, monitor and address issues arising'.

'Positive steps is a model that could be adopted more widely. Lessons learned from our partnership with RVS will be useful to others in developing similar pathways of support across more than one organisation.'

Case study by Helpforce Cymru. Helpforce is working with Third Sector Support Wales (WCVA and 19 CVCs), Welsh Government and other partners to develop the potential of volunteering to support health and social care services in Wales,

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