What a year it’s been for Curo’s Independent Living Service. In March 2013 we proudly collected the National Housing Federation’s (NHF) top accolade the Community Impact Award for our Independent Living Service (ILS). Curo’s ILS offers people aged over 50 across Bath and North East Somerset practical and emotional support so they can remain living independently at home.
Based in the South West of England, Curo provides over 12,000 homes and builds up to 500 high quality new homes every year. However, the advent of the NHF’s Community Impacts Awards gave our sector the opportunity to showcase the amazing contribution that housing associations make to the health and well-being of the country.
Last year alone, colleagues in Curo’s care and support services helped 2,500 people to remain living independently at home. Our customers told us their support directly prevented hospital admissions in 832 instances and delayed the need for residential care in 650 cases.
What isn’t widely known in some circles is that housing providers like Curo do a great deal of unsung work in reducing admissions to A&E. We do this through great personalised support as well as the effective use of alarms and telecare in homes, providing an out-of-hours service that takes the strain off A&E services. We help people emotionally and practically day-to-day so they are more confident in managing long-term health conditions and less likely to visit their GP weekly or require more costly state services.
At the time NHF Chief Executive David Orr said our prize-winning scoop came about because we were exemplars in passion and innovation having designed a service with people that is flexible, responsive and reliable. Put simply, the ILS and other support services we offer are what people want and would want for themselves and for the people they love in a similar situation.
What did winning the Community Impact Award mean for Curo and our customers? There is a personal story behind each of the nearly 500 people we helped to stay living independently at home.
For Jenny this meant that with our help she started to volunteer at a local toy library and moved to a place with a garden for her son who has severe learning difficulties. Jenny went on to get a job in her local school and paid off long-held debts.
Sam, who has middle-stage dementia, has been able to stay in his beloved flat, surrounded by the music and books from his life as an academic. He is now taking his medication, eating regularly and makes it to appointments with his GP and his friends with some reminders and transport help from ILS. We help him ensure his post and finances are under control and that he maintains the quality of life he enjoys.
We’ve lost none of our passion for delivering amazing services. Not even the sea-change in the commissioning landscape for care and support and the resulting turmoil can dampen our spirits as we continue to get big, small and life-changing outcomes for the people supported by our colleagues in the ILS.
The award has been a great launch-pad for partnership and creativity. As well as speaking at conferences and workshops, Curo’s care and support services have continued to grow. Continuing the theme of innovation we have launched a specialist offshoot from the ILS, backed by the Dementia Challenge Fund, to support people living in rural areas to get diagnosis and practical help to live at home. We are now supporting more than 100 people with dementia to stay living independently as long as possible in their own homes.
We’ve also set up a step-down from hospital service which offers furnished and adapted apartments to people who are stuck in hospital but who don’t have a medical need to be there. People like Tom who had his leg amputated and couldn’t get back home to his own home due to the number of steps up to it. He stayed in step-down for 10 weeks, learned to walk again and had help to find and move into a property more suited to his long-term health needs. Thanks to ‘award kudos’ we have been able to raise our profile with the GP commissioners and get local buy-in to expand this service.
We’re also busy tackling the stereotype of older socially-isolated people and building a volunteer base to put on vibrant parties with students from the local university who help people get onto social media for the first time.
What’s evident is that housing associations have the potential to offer cost-effective solutions to primary health services and the NHS that can make a real difference.
What hasn’t changed is that the funding climate is exceedingly short-term and tough and that our customers are still our greatest advocates. One of our first customers, Norma, has continued to tell everyone who might be interested, including the Minister for Civil Society, that we are the best thing that ever happened to her. I’ll leave the last word to another customer who simply said of our ILS: “I could not ask for better.”