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kevin's picture
Joined: 09/03/2009

Our programme of work 'A Better Life' needs your help to answer crucial questions about how we can all make the most of later life.

When we reach old age, will our needs be framed as a 'burden' caused by the 'demographic time bomb'? Will we be seen (or even see ourselves) primarily as 'vulnerable'? Or will we be enabled to share with others our wealth of skills, wisdom and lifetime experience, to be valued by and contribute to family, social, community and communal life? In other words – can we all be involved in building a ‘good society’ at whatever stage of life and however 'high' our 'needs'?

Traditionally, social care services tend to be provided by professionals or organisations, and are very much a 'one-way street' in which the 'user' receives a service, and has tasks done for them. But we have a strong interest in a different area. We’re interested in the myriad schemes and approaches (both in the UK and beyond) that share the common thread of mutual support and which aim to meet needs in a way that is fluid, negotiable, non-stigmatising and based around real relationships rather than on set tasks or time slots. We suspect that it's this common feature that could challenge the boundaries of more conventional service commissioning and provision, and could also offer learning for more mainstream services in the sector as a whole.

To explore these questions further, we've commissioned the National Development Team for inclusion NDTi and Community Catalysts to carry out a major new project focusing on approaches and arrangements where older people with high support needs both give and receive support. The project team are now actively seeking information and evidence from a range of people about their experiences, aspirations and views of support based on mutually beneficial and reciprocal relationships (i.e. where all involved are giving AND receiving support) rather than traditional 'one-way' services provided by professionals/organisations.

Examples could include organised neighbourhood schemes such as circles of support, face to face and virtual support groups, Homeshare, Shared Lives (adult placement) and other co-housing arrangements, Time-banking, intergenerational projects and many more. Or they could be less formal arrangements made between two or more people (i.e. not as part of a wider scheme or project) – for example where neighbours or family members exchange help with shopping, transport or cooking in return for free accommodation, or where people have pooled personal budgets to create a greater shared resource in order to secure support that suits or meets the needs of more than one person.

If you are part of, or know about, an arrangement that you think fits this description, do please help by telling the team about it. You can find out how to do this from NDTi's website. Alternatively, and perhaps if you are short of time, feel free to call Anita on 01202 471 423 to tell her about a particular scheme or approach. If you are in contact with others who may be interested or have an experience to share that relates to this work, please pass this 'call for information' on to them. The deadline is 17th June 2011.

Lastly, you may be interested in coming to one of the free Open Forum events in June 2011 – there is one in England and one in Wales. These will be a chance for older people and other stakeholders from all over England and Wales to come together and share thoughts, ideas and experiences relating to mutually beneficial and reciprocal support arrangements, as well as an opportunity to find out more about this research project. You don't have to have direct experience of this kind of support in order to come to these events, just an interest in this topic. For more details please contact Sarah Morris on: or 01202 471 423.

And watch out for the findings on this important work next year!