In Wales, nearly 1 in 4 people are aged 60 or over; this more than any other country in the UK. According to a report by Age Alliance Wales; ‘A good place to grow old?’ Not all older people in Wales enjoy a good quality of life with too many living in poverty. This means that many older people take on carer responsibilities themselves.
I am Rita Singh; a committee member for the National Lottery Community Fund in Wales. In May I visited the ‘Informed Choices’ project run by Disability Powys and Powys Carer’s Cymru, one of several that benefited from Big Lottery Fund’s £20million AdvantAGE programme. The aim of the programme was to improve the quality of life for older people by providing access to befriending or advocacy services.
Disability Powys and Powys Carers Cymru received just under £1m from the National Lottery Community Fund to together manage Advocacy support for older disabled people and their older carers respectively. It was a privilege to meet the teams from both organisations who have recruited full-time advocates and a stream of 30 volunteer advocates to reach out to older people in Powys.
Prior to our award, both organisations already provided advocacy services and had seen a 20% increase in demand; though due to funding and capacity the service was limited to the most critical cases. The National Lottery Community Fund award enabled them to develop and expand their advocacy work and employ additional staff to deliver them.
During the visit I met with a number of the beneficiaries of the service; Keith is a full time carer for his wife and sought support after recent changes to Welfare Reform. Daunted by the mountain of paperwork involved his advocacy support worker Phillip was able to guide him through the changes and help him to successfully access much needed support. Keith described to me how this support had transformed their lives by providing someone to turn to and helping him to become more independent.
I also met Cherry, who was referred to the project when she had reached a low point after spending years caring for her husband. Unsure of what Welfare Reform meant for her and her husband, her advocacy support worker Celia listened to her needs and helped to guide her through the process. Cherry described the Advocate Celia as a ‘life saver’ providing much needed support at just the right time.
During the visit phrases such as ‘life saver’ and ‘help came when I really needed it’ were coming through thick and fast from the carers and their spouses who benefited through the project. It was becoming increasingly clear that the project was making a real difference to the lives of the beneficiaries.
The project not only enables a better quality of life, but the advocates also bring vital connections with other service providers. These two organisations have shown great resilience and compassion in their work and I left with a very humbling feeling. I am extremely proud to be part of the Fund that helped to get this project off the ground.
This is why the consultation that The National Lottery Community Fund is currently running ‘Your Voice, Our Vision’ is important – to make sure that we can hear directly from you on what works and what support your community needs to help catalyze such amazing projects.