Sian Lockwood, CEO Community Catalysts
I thought that the best way to illustrate the way in which imaginative commissioners are drawing upon the gifts and talents of local people to deliver preventative services for people with health needs is to tell the story of one inspirational community entrepreneur, John Baly.
Helping to Remember
John set up his service “Helping to Remember” a year ago. ‘Helping to Remember’ supports people in the early stages of dementia, who may have lost confidence or experience frustration and isolation. It aims to build confidence, help people retain skills and reconnect with activities that they used to enjoy. Activities are tailored to the person and can be anything from going on walks, playing scrabble and pub lunches to shopping trips, medical appointments and visiting the barbers for a haircut or shave. John likes to work in co-operation with the family with a focus on strengths and reconnecting with what people can do.
In designing and delivering his service John draws upon his 14 years as a full time carer for a relative living with dementia. This very personal experience gave John an insight into the difficulties of finding the right support locally and prompted him to see if he could do something positive to support families in a similar situation.
John explains ‘Actively assisting people to get back into a routine that they are comfortable with and doing things together that other people take for granted brings great reward. Everybody has a story to tell and relating back to them some of the interesting things they have achieved in their lives improves their feeling of self-worth and helps to rekindle their enthusiasm for the various activities we do together’.
Support for community enterprise
John previously had a career in the banking industry and had no experience of setting up an enterprise. Somerset Council had however invested in a programme of support for local community enterprise and this proved invaluable for John. The programme has enabled John to access specialised training, obtain a DBS check, register with the social care e-marketplace, and attend several networking events to link with fellow micro-providers and social work teams.
`When I first started with this service I did so without real focus. I knew what I wanted to do but did not really see how I could do it in a professional manner. The [Somerset community enterprise support programme] changed all that. The local worker put me in touch with two trainers who provided me with the necessary expertise in the areas of dementia and mental health that enabled me to work with clients in a far more positive and constructive way. Without this valuable support as well as the regular contact I now have with other micro-providers my business would have remained one dimensional and without a real footing’.
Strategic approach to commissioning for prevention
The local authority is not involved in commissioning individual services from ‘Helping to Remember’ – those are bought by people with dementia and their families from their own money or from their direct payment (a cash payment provided by the council for people eligible for public funding for their support). Commissioning for prevention involves the council in a far more strategic role – understanding what is needed to enable local people to respond to the needs of other local people. John’s valued preventative service for local people with dementia and their families is only possible because of the imaginative investment in community enterprise support.
If you have an example of innovative commissioning or want to submit other evidence to VCSE Review you can do so here.