One year on from suspending our face-to-face activities, we asked our community partners to share their thoughts and experiences of working with us. Their knowledge of Southwark and Lambeth, and the people here, means they can provide crucial insight into the effectiveness of our programmes and the direction of our future work.
This is the first time we have surveyed partners in this way, so the questions were kept short and general. The aim was to encourage open responses that would inform and improve our partnership work as well as highlighting areas that require a deeper focus.
A copy of the full results can be found here, but below we share the highlights and discuss our plans to utilise the information provided.
A total of 18 partners responded and in Question 1 they told us the various ways they had interacted with us. A total of 46 different options were chosen, which meant that collectively, respondents were able to share insight on different areas of our work from a variety of perspectives.
The only option that was not selected was partners/facilitators who had led a club or activity for us. The three 'other' types of interactions were:
Question 2 asked respondents to rate the extent to which we are achieving our mission. These scores felt positive, especially given that we were deemed to be having the greatest impact on our ultimate focus of reducing loneliness and isolation.
We asked respondents to further explain their answers if they had rated anything as 1 or 5 and again most comments were positive.
‘I particularly like that matches are seen as both sides benefitting. I think younger and older people have a lot to offer each other and it's important to recognise and promote that as much and as widely as we can.’
The team managing and co-ordinating our one-to-one programmes (Love Your Neighbour and Phone a Friend) spend considerable time and effort matching neighbours in order to ensure the friendships are mutually beneficial, so it was really encouraging to see these aspects highlighted. Read about Jane and Sarah's amazing friendship in a recent blog.
Question 3 asked partners to rate how satisfied they were with five different aspects of our work. These results again felt positive. It was very encouraging to see our communications rated so highly — as an organisation that focuses on 'caring' about its neighbours and community, we want people to feel heard and informed.
‘My interactions with South London Cares have always been friendly and efficient and referrals have been processed quickly...’
Demand for our programmes is very high, as it is for various organisations and sources of support across south London. As a result, it can take time before we are able to introduce an older neighbour to a younger neighbour on our one-to-one friendship matching programmes, for example. However, we work hard to keep referrers and neighbours updated, and spend time seeking out and collaborating with alternate avenues of support, which was reflected by one partner:
'...On the collaborative work... staff was easily available to discuss client's support needs and possible solutions. Staff was also very good in seeking out the other organisations that were involved in supporting the client...connecting us and created a cohesive support network. Staff kept us all informed of the client's changing needs and support that was offered.’
‘Great emails with activity information. Not always as easy to find on the website but emails are perfect. Easy to use referral forms.’
This feedback about our website was very helpful and the good news is that we are already working on a new one so watch this space!
‘Think we would welcome being very clear about what kind of opportunities for joint working you are interested in - to avoid unnecessary approaches.’
This is great feedback and we have decided to create a Collaboration Guide for partners, which will provide clear information about the different ways we can work together and the processes for doing so.
Question 4 asked partners to rate the inclusivity of our programmes. The median score was 4.28, which again felt reassuring and positive.
'...when I have liaised with SLC staff they have always been friendly and inclusive and sensitive to cultural differences.’
A number of comments did suggest areas for improvement, such as breaking down language barriers more effectively, and working with people who live with dementia:
‘A high proportion of people have dementia and are excluded from your referral process and yet they are probably the most marginalised and lonely.’
Unfortunately, our current model does prevent us from accepting referrals for people living with dementia. We are a small team with limited resources and currently lack the expertise to provide such neighbours with the care and support they need, either at Social Clubs or at home in a one-to-one setting. We have always made sure that any member of our network who develops dementia continues to participate if possible and is connected to other appropriate support. Nevertheless, we understand that there is more we could do, and it is something we will continue to discuss as we plan for the future.
‘Before covid, I would have said very inclusive based on feedback from our users but during covid given the difficulties older people have accessing the internet, affording or using devices I am not sure how inclusive your programmes are now.'
Over the last year, our Social Club and Development teams have worked with younger neighbours and corporate volunteers to provide considerable amounts of tech support to older neighbours, with 77 successfully making the transition to Zoom. This support has been limited to individuals who already had a smart device and access to the internet, so we are currently looking to increase the reach of the project by including the provision of devices and internet access.
‘I think it is a great organisation, but it still does not reach a lot of people that would benefit from the activities.’
We know that inclusivity as a whole is an area in which we need to improve. Over the last 10 months, we have been performing a deep dive into the diversity, inclusivity and anti-racism of our internal processes and policies. As we move forwards, we will start to engage partners, neighbours and local groups in this work so that we start to better represent the individuals and communities with whom we work.
Question 5 asked partners to provide three individual words that describe their impression of South London Cares, with a note that we were open to whatever came to mind!
The top answers were each provided three times and included caring, community and innovative with empowering, fun, inclusive, intergenerational and thoughtful all mentioned twice. On the flip side, exclusive and patronising were also provided, which suggest we can make improvements on how we communicate and who we communicate with.
The last question asked partners to share any other feedback, ideas or comments they had about us and our work (some suggestions have been included in relevant sections above).
‘Need more information on how we can refer people and what other projects are available for the elderly to get involved in.’
This was a useful suggestion. Our Community Partner Referral Guide provides further information on our programmes and how to refer to us. In future, we plan to more frequently circulate signposting information to our network as this will help to keep neighbours informed and celebrate the amazing work of our partners.
‘the activity sheets look good - be interesting to know what % of people I have sent them off to have used them’
We are currently re-engaging active members of our network and asking them for feedback on our Activity Packs. We won't know exactly how many people have used them, but we hope to learn what has worked well and what could be better.
‘Thank you very much for all your help and keep up the good work!’
A huge thank you to everyone who was able to respond. Your input will help to ensure that we contribute to the effective support and community connection of younger and older neighbours in Southwark and Lambeth.
We remain open to feedback of any sort, so if you'd like to share any thoughts, reflections or ideas then please email [email protected].
Posted by Matt Scaysbrook on Friday 26th March 2021
Matt manages our growing volunteer network and leads on reaching older south Londoners - introducing them to South London Cares and our programmes.