Under the radar Care and Repair service makes big difference

Volunteer James Summers fixes a lighting unit at a service user's home. Picture: Colin Hattersley
Volunteer James Summers fixes a lighting unit at a service user's home. Picture: Colin Hattersley
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IT has been offering a vital service to elderly people across Scotland for the past thirty years.

But despite toiling tirelessly to help vulnerable people remain in their own homes, the work of the Care and Repair charity tends to slip under the radar.

Care and Repair Edinburgh - Yvonne Georgeson. Picture: Colin Hattersley

Care and Repair Edinburgh - Yvonne Georgeson. Picture: Colin Hattersley

Volunteers for the charitable group, which is funded almost entirely by Scottish councils, help elderly and disabled people by taking on DIY jobs, providing company and offering emotional support, free of charge, all year round.

But the Care and Repair team remains little known to many of the people who could most benefit from its work.

“We’re just a small charity who helps older people, who are over 60, and the disabled remain independent in their own homes,” explains Yvonne Georgeson, who runs Care and Repair Edinburgh’s volunteer programme.

The first Care and Repair project was established by the charity Age Concern in Edinburgh in 1985, followed by the Care and Repair Initiative (Scotland) launched in 1987 by a mix of organisations and charities, including the Scottish Office, Shelter and Age Concern (Scotland).

Its aim was to meet the needs of elderly and disabled people who were living in private housing which was in poor repair or below a tolerable standard.

Due to its popularity, the initial eight local projects has grown to 37 across Scotland.

Since 1985, it has offered a helping hand to thousands of people through a wide range of DIY jobs from changing light bulbs, tuning televisions, helping with a computer or putting up shelves.

“We’ve got a volunteer service which we call a handy person service”, Yvonne says.

“Our volunteers are usually people that have retired who have always liked doing DIY jobs and are comfortable doing repairs around their own home, so they’re looking to maybe put something back into the community and help older people in their area.

“The majority of volunteers have their own tool kits but we’re in need of basic tools from people who maybe don’t use them anymore. Things like hammers, spanners, screwdrivers – it’s more manual tools we’re looking for.”

In 2015, Care and Repair helped more than 5,000 older and disabled people stay safely in their own homes and carried out 1,370 small DIY jobs. It also organises trade referral jobs, assistance with a home adaption and offers joinery jobs at reduced rates by the charity’s dedicated joiners.

If the client is happy with the handy person volunteer service there is an option to give a small donation, charges for the other services are at discounted rates, but other than that, the majority of funding comes from local Scottish councils.

“We’re very lucky in that our volunteers are very dedicated. As much as they do the work when they’re there, they actually spend some time with the client and chat with them over tea, so that’s where the kind of care element comes in,” Yvonne added.

A recent addition to its services was the appointment of a full-time dedicated key safe fitter.

To speed up the hospital discharge process, volunteers also work at the homes of hospital patients, to help move furniture to allow for the delivery of hospital equipment and an easier transition back home.

“We’re really looking to expand and work more with our integrated health and social care partners to grow our core services”, said Yvonne.

“We want to make people aware that we are here to help them remain in their own homes. We were thinking that we would like to offer a starter pack to our volunteers, not just tools but a supply of other things they might need when they go out to see older people and we get a lot of request.”

Having experienced a 17 per cent increase in demand for services last year, it’s likely the work of Care and Repair Edinburgh will continue to rise along with the average Scots lifespan.

To help maintain its activities, the charity is appealing to members of the public to donate tools they no longer use. Graham Harper, chief executive of Care and Repair Edinburgh, said: “The number of over 75s is set to double over the next 30 years, and one in five of us alive now will see our 100th birthday. It’s not surprising that public service providers are recognising now that health and social care services, in their current form, simply cannot cope.”