By Debbie le Quesne

Third sector – a crucial role in caring for elderly

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Third sector organisations are key to providing preventative support for the elderly.

Yes, you’ve got it – charities, non-government groups and anything from community groups to WI meetings – are doing a great job delivering innovative ideas to promote wellbeing with the aged.

Such groups have a unique selling point – “a willingness to work holistically and flexibly to achieve better outcomes for their beneficiaries,” so says an article in the Guardian by Robin Miller, a senior fellow at the Health Service Management Centre, University of Birmingham

There are many examples of third sector organisations successfully providing innovative preventative support that are valued by older people and also by commissioners, Miller adds.

And I must agree.

A study funded by the NIHR School for Social Care Research explored the perspectives of both public and third sectors in regards to preventative services for older people.

Miller writes: “In contrast with the tensions that are often described, it found that third sector organisations and their commissioners enjoyed positive relationships and had shared understandings of their respective roles which were largely met.

“Commissioners’ priorities were preventing older people needing social care services in the future, while for third sector organisations the emphasis was on improved quality of life for individuals.”

The conclusion was that although priorities were different they were “reconciled in practice.”

Interesting both groups appeared to struggle to understand how to “set outcomes for preventative services and gather appropriate data, which meant both found it difficult to review and improve the impacts achieved from the resources available.”

But whatever is being done it appears to be working and benefit from working together.

“Commissioners believed that third sector organisations used the funding provided effectively, and the organisations saw these grants and contracts as enabling them to accomplish their overall missions,” the article says.

So far, so good – but happy endings are hard to find these days . . .

There are real concerns that that the overall funding pot for preventative services may be significantly reduced and most third sector organisations significantly rely on public sector support – not least West Midlands Care Association.

Miller rightly observes that health and wellbeing boards are tasked with improving overall outcomes and supporting older people in minimising their reliance on publicly funded services.

“To achieve this, they need to have a detailed knowledge of the work of the third sector in their area and think through how this can be effectively integrated with the statutory services,” he says.

This latest research, carried out at the University of Birmingham, suggests that third sector organisations are keen to contribute to this process and would embrace more robust monitoring, as this will better demonstrate their impact and justify the continuation of their funding.

Interesting! I’m all for accountability, but in my experience the margins between monitoring and policing are often blurred. I will always welcome transparency, advice and take counsel from those with more specialist knowledge than my own, but I have a nagging thought that more “robust monitoring” could kill this goose that appears to have laid a golden egg.

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