This Blog was posted by Andy Finnie – Executive Director – Coming of Age Partnership
The West Midlands based Coming of Age Partnership – CoAP, is currently embarked on an exciting collaboration with the West Midlands Police to reach older people in local communities across the region and we hope this brief overview might interest organisations that are currently working or planning to work on projects that support the aims of effective community engagement.
The CoAP believes the older people community engagement programme resonates very well with Steve Webb’s presentation on extending working lives, at the recent UKAFA (UK Advisory Forum on Ageing) meeting.
One of the main objectives is to develop regular and sustainable localised later life focus groups. Local community police and police community support officers (PCSO’s), have direct access to older people groups in their respective communities and we are using this community engagement expertise and the local community centres, to set up and manage regular later life events to provide:
a) First hand feedback on the day to day challenges faced by our later life population (we have categorised this as the 50+ for our purposes), across a wide geographic area of the West Midlands. The information is captured via a very simple but effective questionnaire that is completed on the day by all attendees.
b) The ongoing focus groups are free to choose a topic of their choice from a list CoAP has provided, based on our current partnership expertise, for example:
1. Age and employment (full, part-time, flexi and job sharing facts and figures based on regional and national data). This is an awareness session to begin with that highlights the fact that we all have latent skills and knowledge, transferable skills, mentoring and coaching capabilities, innovative ideas, self employment ideas and much more.
2. Health and wellbeing awareness (fitness, health, happiness, etc)
3. EHRC – Equality and Human Rights –awareness sessions highlighting that the new equality act is inclusive of later life (age) support, etc.
4. Volunteering – expert advice and guidance on volunteering opportunities; we know that volunteering can lead to useful paid employment in some cases
5. JCP – expert advice on job seeking, job types and changes in legislation regarding the support that is on offer
6. Acas – latest trends on training, employer and employee guidance, issues and complaints, case studies, etc.
7. BJF – Beth Johnson Foundation – aims to gain recognition for the valuable role older people play and to challenge age discrimination through pioneering initiatives that bring together research, policy and best practice
8. West Midlands Police – safety, crime stats, support available, neighbourhood watch, etc.
9. West Midlands Fire Service – smoke detectors, home safety, fire prevention, etc.
c) Every later life focus group is used as an opportunity to update attendees on the later life issues, events and support that is available. We are able to signpost and to discuss specific topics that are of direct interest to those in that precise locality; as you can imagine that varies between one community and another. CoAP and the WMP use these gatherings to engender interaction, group debates and whole other miscellaneous conduit to release tensions, etc.
d) At the very basic level, the later life focus groups provide a place to meet and socialise and this for some, is the only opportunity to do so. (At Graisley’s second later life focus group, held recently, a 93 year old male attended for the first time and he could be seen taking copious notes throughout the event – he left with a huge smile and I felt he really had got something out of the event …. time will tell).
e) Although it is very early days, some common issues are emerging, for example, very few older people ever communicate with their younger counterparts and misconceptions are rife. This has led to an off-shoot project we have termed intergeneration cafés. This is still in concept stage but older people volunteers have expressed their desire to get involved and we are progressing this at a pace.
f) Impact measurement is critical and to this end we are developing a robust methodology to ensure all social and economic benefits are accurately and rigorously recorded.
Opportunities to socialise the diverse, expert support are in themselves a means to an end, in that the aim is to demonstrate that older people are valued and can and should contribute, participate and feel worthwhile members of society. There is no reason why other topics cannot be added to and/or augmented to help communities take collective responsibility for their own direction.
As an example, we have already begun the process of recruitingvolunteer local community ambassadors (CoAP will provide training and support within the limitations of our current ‘bandwidth’ to deliver this). In addition, and perhaps more urgent and topical we have begun the process of developing intergeneration events, where we will facilitate the bringing together of local community younger (primarily 18 – 24 age groups) and older members to begin the process of creating a more cohesive, inclusive and empathetic society. CoAP believe the intergeneration sessions will lead to employment opportunities, self employment through entrepreneurship, innovative collaborations and localised projects that will benefit all age groups.
CoAP is rightly proud and excited about these local projects and we are very impressed and grateful for the progressive attitude and dedication of the WMP and indeed all the partners of the CoAP, the BLF Awards for All that provided the initial funding and the WMLLF for their funding contribution. To be fair, CoAP has managed to get this exciting programme rolling on what was a very limited amount of funding but that aside, there is no reason why this model of collaboration and community engagement cannot be repeated in various regions across the UK
For more information do not hesitate to contact Andy Finnie – Executive Director CoAP:
07901 857 499