A charity is appealing for more volunteers to help ease the mounting pressure on the NHS and social care services.
Care Network Cambridgeshire is seeking more recruits for its Help at Home scheme, which provides a range of assistance to people discharged from hospital or who have an illness that renders them housebound.
Much of the current pressure on Accident and Emergency services is caused by hospitals being unable to send people home even though they have been declared medically fit.
Hilary Johnys, Care Network’s direct services manager, says: “We are seeing twice as many people as this time last year – most of them over 65 – and we are being asked to do a bit more for them than before. Previously they might have been part of a care package. Now people are often waiting for a package to be sorted out.
“Fenland is one area where we most need more volunteers – we have fewer there than anywhere else.”
One of Help at Home’s Fenland volunteers is Graham, from Doddington – volunteers don’t divulge their surnames or other personal details.
He says: “Normally I visit two or three people over a three-week period. I do an average of about 8-10 hours – 15 if you include all the travelling and phone calls and so on. But it is very much my choice to do this much as I enjoy the work and like to be busy. Help at Home volunteers can visit one person at a time and give as little as an hour or two a week.
“The things people value most are help with shopping or simply someone calling in to check they’re OK. Just having someone drop in cheers people up and the confidence it gives them knowing that someone cares and is going to call in is huge.”
Graham has been part of the scheme for seven years. “I was fortunate enough to be able to retire a bit early and I needed to do something,” he says. “I read an article about this work and it was something I felt I’d like to do.
“I enjoy meeting people and helping them out. If it takes some of their worries off them and helps them to have a better life, it makes me feel good, too.”
Ms Johnys says: “Our volunteers give as much or as little time as they like and it’s an opportunity that can fit around the volunteer’s other life.
“One of the most important things we do at the outset – provided people want it - is to go through a check list to see what they most need. It’s a kind of health and wellbeing assessment which looks at things like whether they are getting all the benefits they qualify for, smoke alarms, mobility issues, or if they would like more social contact – we look at just about everything really.”
Normally volunteers visit for up to three weeks. After that, someone from the scheme usually phones people over the next few weeks to check they’re OK.
Ms Johnys says: “We keep an eye on them – most people love that. We also do a lot of signposting to other services – this is done by our Community Navigators who can put people in touch with other services. This is another volunteering opportunity with Care Network for people who prefer to offer that kind of help.”
n For more details, call 01354 694413 or visit www.care-network.org.uk