Exminster based Community Health and Care Charity, Westbank, was one of eight projects from across the UK to receive Cabinet Office funding aimed at keeping older people out of hospital. A second Cabinet Office project was funded to provide peer support and reduce isolation amongst carers from across Devon.
Westbank will welcome Rob Wilson, Minister for Civil Society, on Thursday 5th November. The visit will provide an opportunity for the Minister to find out the role volunteers are playing in reducing pressures on the local NHS; and the support they play in helping carers.
Neighbourhood Friends, a local social action project, is helping reduce pressure on hospitals and GPs. Enhanced support is offered to an identified group of patients aged 75 and over, at high risk of emergency admission to or delayed discharge from hospital. People are referred to the service by their GP or by a member of a hospital discharge team.
The Minister will take on the role of a Neighbourhood Friends volunteer, visiting a 91 year old lady with long term medical conditions, who is currently receiving ongoing befriending support and with the volunteer is accompanied to take short walks.

Mary Nisbett, Chief Executive, commented: we are delighted to welcome the Minister to show him how these projects are supporting our community and our local NHS.

Since the Neighbourhood Friends project was launched 12 months ago, 160 volunteers have spent over 7700 hours providing support to over 825 beneficiaries preventing hospital admission and helping them to stay in their own homes.

Lucy de Garis, Head of Volunteering, commented: our Neighbourhood Friends volunteers are doing an incredible job helping some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that make the biggest difference – a friendly face to greet you on your return from hospital; someone to pick up the bits of shopping you struggle to get yourself; someone to pop in and say hello; someone who shows they care about you.

Devon Carers Peer Support project, a local social action project, is helping carers from across Devon to feel less isolated. Carers are recruited as volunteers to support other carers, with peer support. The group and buddy sessions provide an opportunity for carers to understand they are not alone; they are able to draw on their own experiences and share that knowledge with other carers in a supportive and confidential environment. When the project was launched in May 2015 it attracted interest from 650 carers from across Devon; to date 326 carers have participated in phase one with phase two about to start.

BBC Radio Devon Breakfast Show with Simon Bates, Thursday 5th November

Link: http://bbc.in/1MkhTm8

Interviews about the Neighbourhood Friends project can be heard at 58mins and 1.42mins

Minister for Civil Society, Rob Wilson, said:
“My visit to Westbank gave me the opportunity to see first-hand how funding provided by the Cabinet Office is improving the lives of older and vulnerable people and their carers across Devon. Social action is making a huge difference to hundreds of lives, creating strong communities and helping us to build a truly compassionate society."

For more information about Neighbourhood Friends please contact Lucy de Garis, Head of Volunteering

Email: l.degaris@westbankfriends.org
Tel: 01392 824752
www.neighbourhoodfriends.org.uk