Compassionate Inverclyde: The creation of a Compassionate Community and Place of Kindness (part 1)
Part one of this case study covers the background of the programme, its implementation and how it is nurturing transformational change.
Inverclyde is a diverse area located along the banks of the Clyde and has a population of 79,160 (Inverclyde Council, 2017). It is one of the smallest local authorities in Scotland and has a past deeply rooted in the ship building industry. There are significant levels of deprivation that present a challenge.
Nonetheless, Inverclyde has a long tradition of being a welcoming place where community spirit and links are very strong. The ethos of Compassionate Inverclyde has captured the imagination of a community, which for generations, has been known for the kindness and neighbourliness of its people. Generosity and caring for others lies at the very heart of the community and way of life.
Compassionate Inverclyde was officially launched on 1 March 2017. The programme aims to enable and empower people to help and support one another in times of increased health need, crisis and bereavement. The role of families, friends and neighbours working alongside formal services is recognised as being crucial to the creation of a compassionate community.
Ten years ago Alison Bunce, who is the Programme Lead, was working with primary schools to break down the barriers surrounding perceptions of hospice care. Alison was inspired by the work of Professor Allan Kellehear whose book Compassionate Cities (Kellehear, 2005) describes a public health vision that involves communities in adopting a compassionate approach to death, dying and loss. The idea for Compassionate Inverclyde was born from that inspiration. At present, Alison Bunce is seconded to the Programme from Ardgowan Hospice where she has worked for many years as Director of Care.
The strategic objectives of the Programme are to promote wellbeing and compassionate citizenship, in addition to raising awareness and education. From the onset, the Programme was a collaborative partnership and was supported by a Board that included representatives from:
Community, CVS Inverclyde, Inverclyde Carers Centre, Inverclyde Health and Social Care Partnership, Scottish Care, Police Scotland, Acute Services, University of West of Scotland, West of Scotland College, Inverclyde Chamber of Commerce, Your Voice, the Health and Social Care Alliance.
The Board of Compassionate Inverclyde, which provides support and guidance to the Project Lead, mirrors the community. Members possess a broad range of knowledge, skills and experience that can be accessed when required to ensure that the Programme achieves its desired outcomes. Board Members describe it as true partnership working with an absence of hierarchy between members and a clear commitment to ensure that the Programme succeeds.
The Programme began initially with No One Dies Alone (NODA) which aims to support people who have no family or friends in the last hours of life. A rota of Volunteer Companions sits makes sure there is always with someone with the person until they die to ensure that they do not die alone.
Since its inception, Compassionate Inverclyde has developed and grown organically and the Programme now includes:
- Back Home Boxes contain provisions and are gifted to anyone being discharged from Inverclyde Royal Hospital, regardless of age or need, who live alone. The boxes include essential items such as tea, milk, bread, a get-well card made by local school children and a blanket. Local people and community groups knit the blankets. People, businesses, organisations and groups across Inverclyde donate the provisions. This community act of kindness allows recipients to make a hot drink and light snack for a few days allowing them to concentrate on getting better without having to worry about shopping. The volunteers take sole responsibility and organise the Back Home Boxes.
- The High Five Programme addresses the five key ways to wellbeing. Alison developed the Programme when she was looking strategically at well-being. It is transferable and can be carried out with any group of people. An emphasis is made on the power of kindness and is delivered over a five week period. The programme has been delivered to pupils at schools across Inverclyde as well as the local college, bereavement groups, public groups, Youth Club and Amazon staff.
- Compassionate Inverclyde Support Hub commenced on 29th May 2018 and is a volunteer led support hub. The Hub will be a meeting place for anyone experiencing loneliness, crisis, social isolation and bereavement.
- Back Home Visitors will be commencing in October 2018 and is a visitor scheme, which will be based on neighbourliness whereby a visitor and a young person will visit a socially isolated person, aged over eighty who live alone. The idea developed out of learning from the Back Home Boxes which showed that the majority are given to people over eighty who live alone.
- Work with Prisons. This will be commencing in autumn 2018. Alison will deliver the High Five Programme and speak with groups of prisoners who would undertake some of this work with the opportunity to open up conversation around Palliative Care and other possible areas of involvement.
Nurturing Transformational Change
Compassionate Inverclyde has only been operational since May 2017, yet a transformational change in the community seems to have occurred within a relatively short space of time.
In a Compassionate Community, people are encouraged to be empathic and motivated by compassion to care for each other. The whole community accepts that responsibility for the health of its citizens cannot be left solely to health and social care services to deal with. Compassionate Inverclyde is now part of a global network of cities that recognise that health is everyone’s business. Inverclyde is the first place in Scotland to be included on the list of Compassionate Cities.
Karen Haldane Executive Director of Your Voice Inverclyde believes that Compassionate Inverclyde has now become “a social movement”. Evidence of this social movement is apparent in the way that the Programme has brought the whole community together to include schools, supermarkets, Guides, Brownies, HMP Greenock, voluntary and local organisations, businesses, knitting and crochet groups. Intergenerational practice has been identified as generating a greater sense of community spirit and contributing to a more cohesive community and in Inverclyde there has been a positive response to the work of the Programme with people of all generations involved.
There is evidence that Compassionate Inverclyde has contributed to improved health and wellbeing. Volunteers report that being part of the Programme provides increased physical, social and emotional benefits.
Shona lost her confidence following having to give up her job after twenty-seven years due to ill health. As a consequence, she became low in mood and was reluctant to leave the house. Becoming involved in the Back Home Boxes has meant that Shona has regained her confidence, no longer feels isolated and is able to volunteer with the Programme despite feeling pain. “Volunteering with Compassionate Inverclyde has given me a lifeline.”
William has lost two stone since volunteering due to the amount of walking involved between wards to deliver the Back Home Boxes. He became a Back Home Boxes Volunteer in December 2017 following Alison’s visit to Port Glasgow Community Council. William now helps manage the Compassionate Inverclyde Facebook page, compiles statistics and spreadsheets for the Programme as well as designing leaflets. William feels that the key to the success of Compassionate Inverclyde is because “it has captured everyone’s imagination. It is a good idea and a welcome thing.”
Ruth is from Manchester and volunteers helping with the Back Home Boxes. She has identified the reason for the success of the Programme as being due to the healthy numbers of volunteers and the people of Inverclyde who are genuinely kind. In addition, she says, “Compassionate Inverclyde has tapped into a need for people to connect and reach out to one another.”
There is warmth, enthusiasm and passion for the Programme evident among the volunteers. Betty is a Back Home Volunteer and became involved because it has given her “the opportunity to give something back to the community.”
Unlike years ago, many people no longer have family or friends living nearby. There is growing recognition and concern that this aspect of modern society is leading to more people becoming increasingly social isolated and lonely. This impacts upon the health and wellbeing of individuals and is detrimental to the cohesiveness of communities and society. The Scottish Government is developing a National Strategy to build connected resilient communities that can tackle the problems of social isolation and loneliness (Scottish Government, 2018). Compassionate Communities help address loneliness and social isolation that very often can affect frail and vulnerable people. The evidence from Compassionate Inverclyde is that it is already having an impact and helping to alleviate pressure on Health and Social Care services as since the inception of the Back Home Boxes, Homecare services have not received any crisis calls.
Read part two of ‘Compassionate Inverclyde: The creation of a Compassionate Community and Place of Kindness’ here. The second part discusses the factors of the programmes success and the future challenges it faces.
Grateful and heartfelt thanks go to all who gave up their time and were willing to contribute to this study. Interviews were conducted with the following people:
Alison Bunce – Programme Lead
Volunteers – Betty, Myra, Shona, Ruth, William
Brian Corrigan – Partnership Facilitator CVS Inverclyde, Karen Haldane – Executive Director Your Voice Inverclyde, Louise Long – Chief Office Inverclyde HSCP, Councillor Robert Moran – Elected Member and Chair of Compassionate Inverclyde Board, Brian Polding Clyde – Integration Lead Scottish Care
Kellehear, A. (2005). Compassionate Cities. Routledge.
https://www.gov.scot/Publications/2018/01/2761/349573. A Connected Scotland: Tackling social isolation and loneliness and building stronger communities.
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