Care In Rural Communities

Care In Rural Communities

by Hanna Lindon

An ambitious new project launched by Action in Rural Sussex could transform the way care is delivered in rural communities. Hanna Lindon finds out more.

Recently, Action in Rural Sussex (AirS) began to notice a worrying trend emerging across the communities it serves. The charity, which exists to improve the quality of life for people living in rural communities, especially those isolated from services, noticed that its Village Agents were reporting a shortage of carers working in the villages. The problem seemed to be down to a lack of funding. With care agencies operating on increasingly tight budgets, they simply can’t afford the extra cost of transport. “This is a real issue, because society’s aim is for people to stay in their own homes longer,” explains Teresa Gittins, head of outward-facing services at AirS. “For that to happen, you have to give them help with daily tasks, such as cooking meals, shopping, collecting prescriptions and looking after pets. The government provides an allowance for eligible people so that they can buy in the services themselves as an alternative to moving into a care home. However, the cost of transport means that many personal assistants simply are not able to cover the expense of travelling to rural communities.”

AirS has come up with an innovative solution to this cross-county problem. Instead of asking qualified care workers to commute from nearby towns, why not train local people up to become personal assistants? With a huge shortage of part-time jobs in smaller communities, it’s an idea that solves two problems in one stroke.

“The situation now is that many people are already helping within their community for free,” says Teresa, “so why not give them and others the right skills to develop that further and offer it as a service?”

AirS is currently working with local authorities to provide a personal assistant training programme at low cost and delivered locally. The course participants will then be well placed to advertise themselves as personal assistants, allowing members of their community in need of care to employ them.

The project is a prime example of the work that AirS does in helping communities to look after themselves. The charity employs village agents, each of whom provide support across eight or ten villages. The help they offer can be anything from facilitating the establishment of a lunch club, a community garden or village befriending service. On top of that, AirS works to support children and families in rural areas, aid the development of affordable housing, offer advice regarding village halls and community buildings, and raise awareness of rural issues. With many local businesses and rural organisations increasingly under threat, the work it does has never been more important.

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