Frail service users

A report of a study project aimed at reaching older,
“hard-to-reach” clients.

Many older and frail people who receive social services help
cannot travel to group consultations or see or write well enough to
complete written questionnaires. Wakefield Age Concern’s Talk-Back
Project, which is evaluated in A Right to be Heard, is one
of a number of innovative methods whereby the views of frail older
people can be communicated to service commissioners.

The project organised a programme of home meetings by Age
Concern volunteers with some 70 frail older people. Themes from
their discussions were to be fed back to community care planners.
Typically an older person was visited between four and seven times
over a two or three-month contact period. Volunteers were used
because they were independent. The series of meetings was intended
to enable a friendly relationship to develop, which could encourage
the older person to speak from the heart. Discussions were focused
on issues which had arisen in the lives of the older person since
the previous visit.

The report includes helpful lessons about recruiting
participants and about modifications needed by the project. A
summary is given of the improvements to services which older people
said they most sought.

Talk-Back demonstrates one option for consulting “hard-to-reach”
older service users. Other approaches have been developed, such as
panels of older service users whom managers can meet, or programmes
of home visits by service managers to randomly selected service
users. Time may tell whether one approach has particular
advantages. However, as this study reminds us, a crucial factor in
whether such consultations can actually improve services is whether
managers have plans for how they will hear, discuss and utilise the
feedback from service users which has been collected.

Source: Jenny Willis, A Right to be Heard: Report of
the Age Concern Wakefield District Talk-Back Project
, Age
Concern, 2000




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