Report highlights success of innovative scheme helping the elderly

The success of an innovative project set up to improve the quality of life for elderly and vulnerable people has been highlighted in a detailed evaluation by a research facility led by Fuse Deputy Director Janet Shucksmith.

The Community Agents Project aims to support people living in the North East area of Redcar and Cleveland to retain their independence and live safely in their own homes.  It is a partnership between Tees Valley Rural Community Council (TVRCC) as a delivery partner with South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council as commissioners.

The Community Agents have a database of all local voluntary organisations to help them find the right support - a volunteer driver, someone to do gardening and DIY or help to fill in official forms, or a group that runs a befriending service or lunch club.

Janet Shucksmith, Professor in Public Health at Teesside University, said: “The University has welcomed the opportunity to undertake the evaluation of this innovative project. We have been able to put this evaluation work into a context of previous and current health and social care projects which we have examined and which are helping to transform the landscape of service provision.

“The current climate of changes within the health and social care sector makes it really important to learn lessons from these initiatives and to share them more widely.

“We have been able to use the relatively novel approach of social return on investment analysis in this work to ensure that we really capture the benefit to stakeholders and service users alike of the co-production approach in the Community Agents work.

“It shows that the project has made a significant difference to the lives of a number of vulnerable adults and has really highlighted the advantages and strengths of cross boundary working.”

The Centre for Health and Social Evaluation (CHASE) research facility at Teesside University evaluated the project, which covered a 22-month period from June 2013 to March 2015. The final report puts the net value under Social Return on Investment calculations at £1,418,797 - for every £1 of investment, £7.38 of social value has been created. CHASE is co-directed by Fuse associate Dr Sharon Hamilton.

Behind the costings are the hundreds of elderly and vulnerable people throughout the borough with non-clinical needs who have benefited from the ‘one-stop-shop’ linking the voluntary and statutory sectors. Over the evaluation period, the Community Agents handled 748 referrals and more than 70 voluntary organisations were involved in providing access to services. The number of referrals has now risen to more than 1,000.

The report states: 'Reducing social isolation was a core aim of the project and Community Agents have ensured positive outcomes in this area.

'Support with finances and accessing both social and medical activities have all served to improve clients’ perception of their own health and wellbeing, increased their income, led to many of them becoming more socially active, having increased self-confidence and generally feeling well supported, thus reducing levels of depression and anxiety.

'The evidence supports the view that the ability to address the social needs of these clients has resulted in some of them remaining independent in their own homes for longer. Both health and social care professionals were able to provide examples of clients that they had expected to become in need of full-time residential care sooner rather than later, and they have no doubt that this has been delayed by the support provided through the Community Agent project.'

The project has also had an impact on the way health and social care professionals carry out their own roles.

Community Agent Liz Toon explained: “Sometimes it is simple situation with an easy solution. For other people with complex needs, it takes more time. These are people with non-medical needs who otherwise might fall through the gap.”

The Community Agents final report and a full summary can be downloaded from the TVRCC website.

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Photo: Community Agent Liz Toon, pictured right, with one of her clients

Last modified: Sun, 04 Oct 2015 21:40:46 BST