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The Zone’s Home Buddy Scheme

The Zone’s Home Buddy Scheme is an intergenerational project run by The Zone Initiative which provides support for older, disabled and vulnerable people to live an independent, healthy and active lifestyle within the Doon Valley area of East Ayrshire. 

Zone Home Buddy

What are the aims and objectives?

The Home Buddy Scheme provides a tailored service to assist older people, disabled and vulnerable adults in the Doon Valley area, to live in their homes and communities for longer than may otherwise be possible without feeling lonely, isolated or afraid. The project also provides a range of social activities and companionship to their participants.

An additional aim of the project is to assist the Home Buddies in becoming ‘work ready’ by providing funded project placements, volunteering opportunities and certified education and training in a wide range of areas. 

“Home Buddies bring the outside world in to them [older people].”

Why was the project set up?

The Zone started 25 years ago as Bellsbank Adventure Playground in direct response to the growing number of children, young people and adults who required support to achieve personal goals. The Zone was officially opened in 2010, as a non-profit making multifunctional project aimed at providing good quality childcare, leisure, recreational and educational opportunities for children, young people, elderly and local communities of East Ayrshire. The focus is on improving quality of life by promoting physical, spiritual and mental wellbeing and by empowering people to make positive changes in their lives.

Based on forming partnerships locally, the Zone is committed to promoting social friendships and strong interpersonal skills, building confidence, and providing educational opportunities and employment services. The Zone employs 14 members of staff.

The Home Buddy Scheme was launched in 2010 and provides a domestic and household service. The Scheme was developed through the Future Jobs Fund – an initiative working with East Ayrshire Council skills development and employability service to provide job opportunities for young people (aged 18-24 years) which also provide a benefit to the community. There are four Home Buddies and 32 participants each of whom lives in one of four areas of rural deprivation. 

Who are the participants and the partners?

Based in an area which has been deeply affected by the decline of the mining and textiles industries, the project supports a predominately older population. Many young people and families have moved out of the area for work and it is felt that “the sense of community has been lost”. The project works with older, disabled and vulnerable people in the Doon Valley area, particularly in Dalmellington and Patna.

The Zone works in partnership with East and South Ayrshire Councils, NHS Ayrshire and Arran and is funded by Fairer Scotland Fund, Coalfields Regeneration Trust, Ayrshire Leader, Inspiring Scotland, Mineral Trust, Abbey Trust and several private companies. The work of The Zone is overseen by a Board of Trustees which is made up of local people who are interested in the welfare of children and young people and includes youth and adult community representatives.

The Home Buddy Scheme is co-ordinated by the Project Manager of The Zone. 

What does the project do?

The Home Buddy Scheme provides a personal and professional service which is individually tailored to assist people to live in their homes and communities for longer than may otherwise be possible without feeling lonely, isolated or afraid. The Scheme is particularly aimed at those over 65 years of age or with a disability that makes everyday domestic chores difficult and who would consequently benefit from some extra help at home. 

“They’re flexible to your needs.”

Each of the four Home Buddies works with up to 13 project participants at any one time, across four areas of rural of deprivation. Each Home Buddy works three hours each day face-to-face with participants. They also write up a daily diary of activities and tasks undertaken and attend and contribute to a weekly team meeting. Each Home Buddy also works towards achieving an SVQ in Health and Social Care.  An assessment of the needs of each participant is made before they are matched up with a Home Buddy.

The service is tailored according to the needs and wishes of the participant and is responsive and adaptable to their individual circumstances. It works to support the participant to remain independent and to encourage them to maintain existing abilities and skills in the home where appropriate. Home Buddies visit each participant once or twice per week for up to two hours at each visit depending on circumstances and need. On the days a Home Buddy does not visit they phone to make sure the participant is well.

Due to changes in the personal care services provided by local councils, the old style ‘home help’ service is no longer provided. The Home Buddy Scheme fills this gap by providing a wide and varied range of support and help including:

  • Accompanying people to and from shopping trips or assisting them with shopping;
  • Escorting participants to a social event or club, post office, bank, medical appointment or other essential tasks;
  • Help with letters and bills;
  • Companionship and socialising; 
  • Household duties such as changing a bed or curtains, vacuuming, window cleaning, making light meals, washing or ironing;
  • Any other household duties the participant might require to be completed in order to make their life less anxious and more comfortable. 

In general, Home Buddies provide a link to the community for people who miss having someone to talk to. The Zone also provides a range of social activities to bring project participants together for leisure and recreation events and also for information providing sessions.

“It’s a comfort to know that once a week somebody’s going to come in.”

Referrals to the project come from a range of sources including family and friends, GP or community nurse, social work and personal care staff and self referral. The Zone also advertises the Home Buddy Scheme locally. 

Has the approach changed over time? What are the project’s future plans?

Though the original aims of The Zone have remained unchanged, for sustainability reasons the company has diversified into other areas of work and developed new project areas.

The initial plan for the Home Buddy Scheme was for four Home Buddies to each work 20 hours per week. However, due to funding constraints the project was reviewed, with the needs of the participant at the centre, and the project was scaled back with each Home Buddy working 16 hours per week.

The recruitment of more Home Buddies is planned to further develop the services available and to extend the reach of the project to more elderly and vulnerable adults across a wider geographical area. The project would also like to expand the services provided to include benefits entitlement advice and household energy information.  Further, the project is developing plans to assist participants to attend clubs and social events in local community centres which are under utilised.

In what way is the approach ‘asset based’? 

The Home Buddy Scheme works to provide a personal, flexible, responsive, reliable and professional support and household service to older, disabled and vulnerable adults in areas of rural deprivation in East Ayrshire for as long as required by the participant.

The project utilises the existing skills, energy and abilities of young people as Home Buddies to support elderly and vulnerable adults to maintain their independence, support them to continue to carry out tasks within the home where appropriate, and to remain part of their communities. The Home Buddies carry out a range of household duties and provide companionship to help the participants to feel more comfortable in their own homes.

“I like the fact that I go in and make a difference – it feels good.”

The Scheme supports the Home Buddies to develop their potential and enhances their skills for relationships, self esteem, and resilience by building supportive networks and friendships with other Home Buddies and building intergenerational harmony with the adults they work with. The Home Buddies also support the preservation of the existing assets and abilities of the participant and help them to maintain control of their own environment.

The Zone has wider community benefits through the provision of recreation and leisure opportunities for the whole community, by offering a range of volunteering opportunities with other community groups and initiatives, and by providing educational and work orientated skills development and formalised training and education. The initiative also provides a range of social activities and events to bring community members together to encourage social interaction, physical and mental wellbeing and promote community cohesion.

The Home Buddies are having a direct impact on the general health, security at home and sense of wellbeing of local older, disabled and vulnerable people, as well as contributing to more cohesive, friendlier and safer communities. The Home Buddies have reported improvements in their own health, outlook on life, self esteem and confidence as well as a greater sense of being a valued member of the community.

How has success been measured?

An internal evaluation of the Home Buddy Scheme was carried out over a three month period with participants of the Scheme and the Home Buddies. Using a questionnaire approach with both groups the evaluation sought to assess the impact of the Scheme on the participants and their families, the benefits of the Scheme for both groups, level of job satisfaction for the Home Buddies and to identify areas for service improvement.

What are the strengths and challenges? 

The Scheme allows for locally based support and care plans to be developed for older, disabled and vulnerable people’s individual needs. The service has resulted in a number of adults being able to stay in their own homes for longer than may otherwise have been possible. The energy of the Home Buddies and their willingness to help were also recognised as strengths of the Scheme by participants.

During their time with the Home Buddy Scheme the young people involved have the opportunity to undertake certified educational training and complete an SVQ Health and Social Care Level 2. Of the four current Home Buddies, two are nearing completion of Level 2 and two are in the process of completing Level 3. Previous Home Buddies, due to the qualifications and experience gained while working with the Scheme, have moved into full time employment in nursing homes and working with children with additional needs. The Scheme also provides opportunities for youth volunteers to work alongside the Home Buddies, many of whom have also moved onto positive destinations including full time work in the social care sector and further education.

The intergenerational theme underpinning the Scheme has brought older and younger people together in a mutually beneficial way. The participants of the Scheme look forward to the Home Buddies visits and the help they receive in their own homes; the Home Buddies have been able to learn about themselves, raise their aspirations, broaden their understanding of others and of the society in which they live, whilst simultaneously developing and extending their social skills, educational opportunities, experiences, and relationships in the process. 

“The Home Buddies are invaluable – they build the links and relationships.”

The Scheme has also had a wider positive community impact by improving community cohesion, increasing civic participation and pride in the local area. The intergenerational theme of the Scheme has improved perceptions of young and old people and led to a reduction in negative stereotyping of both groups.

The Scheme is dependent on external funding and staff reported the need to continually seek funding as a major ongoing challenge. Funding has enabled the Home Buddy Scheme to be provided to the local community but it has also constrained how much the project can do: with more funding the Home Buddy Scheme could see more people, provide a wider range of services and extend the geographical area it covers. 

Despite a high demand for the service there is a requirement to ensure the programme remains manageable. Continuity is important for the participants and it remains important to deliver a personal and individually tailored service to each participant the project engages with and supports.

From a personal perspective The Zone staff and Home Buddies have gained satisfaction from knowing that they are helping people and that the participants are safe within their home and are more trusting of younger people. On the other hand, Home Buddies expressed that it can be upsetting to see people living in social isolation. Participants in the Scheme spoke of their gratitude for the service and the help they have received. Many also spoke of the “tremendous” difference it has made to their lives to know that someone is on hand to help them and to provide them with companionship.

Relevant links to other parts of the Understanding Glasgow site:  social capital, health, community safety, mindset, education