A qualified adults social worker for more than 10 years – with the last five focussing on support for dementia sufferers and their carers – Pam Stopforth (pictured) knows better than most how isolation can affect people.
Pam is the dementia development coordinator for the Liverpool-based social care enterprise PSS, which provides community social and health care services across England, central Scotland and North Wales.
Here she has helped develop and introduce a number of new services for people with dementia and their carers including the provision of assistive technology for people across Merseyside and the development of the PSS Online Dementia Centre which gives access to advice, information and hands on support. There is a longer term plan to set up a North West Dementia Centre.
She also works closely with Liverpool Hope University to look at how social work students and volunteers can be utilised to provide low level support for older people living in the community or in care settings to reduce their social isolation.
As such she was a perfect candidate for the social experiment, which is being run by the charity Friends of the Elderly.
During the week Pam will be unable to communicate with anyone and has arranged for her 12-year-old son to stay with one of her sisters. As an extremely sociable woman who can speak with her three older sisters up to 10 times a day Pam admits that she will find more than one day of not speaking with anyone difficult.
But she admits: “This will give me a great insight. It all fits in with the work we are doing.”
She says the answer is for commissioners and local authorities to develop more befriending services, which “don’t cost a lot and can stop a crisis happening.”
“Quite often people have been admitted into hospital because no-one picked up they were isolated,” she says. “If we can optimise our social workers and volunteers we can do more.
“Social workers need to take it back to the grass roots and talk to people though now it’s all about form-filling and assessment. What’s needed is more joined up work with the third sector organisations, which can make a difference.”