Edinburgh volunteers make a big difference to pensioners

Little practical tasks carried out by Edinburgh volunteers with Care and Repair are helping to keep city pensioners safe and secure

Little practical tasks carried out by Edinburgh volunteers with Care and Repair are helping to keep city pensioners safe and secure

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IT can be the little things, like turning on the heating or replacing a light bulb.

For an older person, these seemingly menial tasks can go a long way in helping them feel safe and comfortable in their own home.

Care and Repair chief executive Graham Harper (centre) with (left to right)  volunteer officer Yvonne Georgeson , keysafe fitter  Andrew Finlayson (in van) and head of operations Louise Love.

Care and Repair chief executive Graham Harper (centre) with (left to right) volunteer officer Yvonne Georgeson , keysafe fitter Andrew Finlayson (in van) and head of operations Louise Love.

Across Edinburgh, a small team of around 30 or so volunteers are working to do just this.

Care and Repair, which also has 17 staff, helped 5,031 vulnerable people in their homes during 2015 - up around 700 on the year before.

And while the tasks may often be small, they are helping the Scottish Government meet its owns ambitions of allowing people live longer in their own homes, rather than end up in hospital long term or in care.

READ MORE: Professionals and volunteers can support ageing population

It doesn’t seem a lot to you and I but for someone who is older, doesn’t have family, it’s priceless

Graham Harper, chief executive of Care and Repair

And chief executive Graham Harper believes the work of his teams are helping vulnerable people stay out of hospital in the first place.

He said: “Changing a lightbulb may not be a big thing for you and I, but if you are just home from hospital, you have just had a hip replacement, the last thing you need is to be standing on the top of a step ladder on your own.

“That could be £35,000 to treat another broken hip. That’s a lot of money for changing a lightbulb.”

The volunteer team carried out 1,370 small DIY handyperson jobs in 2015 with a further 368 jobs carried out by the charity’s staff joiners at a reduced rate.

Care and Repair has also appointed of a full-time dedicated key safe fitter so that trusted volunteers and staff can gain access without the need for the householder to get up and open the door.

Volunteers have also helped to re-tune televisions, set up social media accounts and change printer cartridges, Mr Harper said.

He added: “We encourage everyone who is working with us to sit down with the person, have a cup of tea with them, take five minutes to have a bit of social time with them. Most people want to get onto the next job, but we are better than that.”

Similar services run across Scotland, with research showing that every pound invested in a Care and Repair-style model has a social return of just over £4.20.

Volunteers are now working with health and social care chiefs to assist older people settle back into their homes after a stay in hospital.

A patient will typically be befriended in hospital, with a volunteer then preparing their house for when the get home. It can play a crucial role in freeing up hospital beds as soon as possible.

Mr Harper said: “The volunteers will often get the house ready, clear up the junk mail, give the house a mop or a dust and get the heating switched on.

“We have had cases where older people have been discharged at three in the morning and basically left to it. We can really help to make it a bit more comfortable for them when they get there.

“It doesn’t seem a lot to you and I but for someone who is older, doesn’t have family, it’s priceless.

“And for hospitals, even very small numbers getting out the door can make the difference between a good day and a bad day.”

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