What is it?
Porth y Gymuned (Welsh for ‘The Community Gateway’) is a new service operated by the Council. It consists of trained staff, who help residents of all ages in Ceredigion, by helping them to make connections to access support opportunities in their area that can maintain and improve their wellbeing. These trained staff are called Community Connectors.
Porth y Gymuned enables individuals to have a ‘What Matters’ conversation with a Community Connector, who can then help and work together to identify targeted solutions that meet their needs. The Community Connectors support people and their families to access advice and assistance that is provided by the third sector, as well as identify appropriate services and groups, within their own communities, such as social groups that could help contribute to their wellbeing.
Porth y Gymuned is being led by the Community Well-being Team. If, during the ‘What Matters’ conversation, it becomes clear that the individual needs a higher level social care input, they will be referred to Porth Gofal.
How can it work?
Jane’s* story of reaching her goals through the support of Cerys, a Community Connector, demonstrates how a Community Connector can help someone find and access solutions in their own community, which in turn, can have such a positive impact on wellbeing.
Community Connectors can also look more widely at the opportunities that are available that can help contribute to a fulfilled life. This includes increasing the awareness of services and help to access them, such as provision of small home adaptations or assistance with shopping.
Cerys is a Community Connector who has been helping Jane for 3 months. Jane contacted the service after she realised she was becoming increasingly isolated and lonely after her husband had passed away 8 months earlier. Jane and her husband were very reliant on each other and during his progressive illness, she lovingly cared for him at home for two and a half years prior to him passing away. The demands on her as a Carer meant many of her previous social connections were lost and with Jane’s family not living locally, Jane felt that she had no reason to leave her front door.
When Cerys started to support Jane, they initially started by meeting a few times in Jane’s house and chatted over a cup of tea to try and help overcome some of the concerns that Jane had. After getting to know each other, Jane mentioned that she loved to read and enjoyed painting years ago when she was a young mother and whilst she would like to ‘give it a go again’, the thought of walking into a room and having to meet new people was overwhelming.
During this conversation, Cerys also became aware that Jane had fallen some months before and hadn’t told anyone about it, not wanting her family to worry. It was clear that this had had a big impact on Jane’s confidence when walking and particularly when negotiating steps. It became obvious that this was a contributing factor as to why she didn’t want to leave the house.
Cerys noted that there were small fall prevention interventions that could be undertaken at the property and so with consent from Jane, contacted Care and Repair. They visited her house and fitted a handrail leading up to her front door and also provided improved external lighting in the area, all of which helped to increase her confidence to leave the house. Cerys also gained consent to pass on Jane’s details to the Fire Service to do a home safety check. They visited the property and provided and fitted free smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Cerys also encouraged Jane to enquire about the strength and balance programme at the local leisure centre, which would help her confidence on her feet even further.
Cerys arranged for another lady who was also being supported by her for similar reasons, with consent, to meet up to introduce them. They both enjoyed art and learning from one another. Having set up a group from their home, they meet once or twice a week. They are thinking of going to the strength and balance class together and going to the luncheon club afterwards.
Jane’s wellbeing, happiness and confidence have all increased with her now not being overly worried about leaving her home.
* Names have been changed to protect anonymity
Jonathan* is a single parent who has two children. He has a long term medical condition that is impacting on physical and mental health for which he receives regular treatment. Jonathan had a problem with hoarding items, which meant the family home was very cluttered and unmanageable.
Jonathan was very anxious and depressed; he was overwhelmed by the clutter and unable to focus on clearing it. His son, Emyr didn’t have friends to play with as he was too embarrassed to have friends visit the house. Emyr was also showing an unusually strong emotional attachment to his toys and was reluctant to sort them and let go of ones that were old and no longer suited to his age.
Jonathan was unable to clean effectively and there was a lack of safe space for the younger child - Carys - to crawl and walk. The home scored as high risk on a fire safety check mainly due to the large amount of flammable items and blocked escape routes.
The property was in an isolated location and difficult to access. The family were not settled there and would like to move.
What Jonathan wanted
Jonathan wanted the clutter to be gone and to have a more minimal environment.
He wanted to clear his debt and take his children on holiday by selling unwanted items. He also wanted to give some items to charity or to someone who needs them.
Jonathan also wanted support regarding finding more suitable accommodation.
Steps towards change
A request for Community Connector Support was made by the family health visitor.
Buddug is a Community Connector who worked in partnership with Jonathan and his family with a view to exploring and achieving the positive outcomes that they wanted to achieve.
She worked with Jonathan to organise a visit by an Environmental Services Officer to see what impact the hoarding was having on the house. A joint visit was undertaken with the fire service to reinforce important safety messages. Buddug also visited Jonathan’s mother to involve her in the plan to help.
Buddug arranged for Emyr to attend a fire safety program at the local fire station to reinforce important safety messages from a child’s perspective.
Jonathan began decluttering using a local community centre as a base to store items for selling, to donate unwanted items and to attend craft activities. Environmental Services helped him dispose of some items. Jonathan was initially supported to develop list of appropriate chores for Emyr, but they now undertake the chores together.
Buddug supported Jonathan to attend a short wellbeing programme hosted by a mental health charity. Buddug helped Jonathan to attend a local community centre where he undertook training and is now a volunteer.
Buddug arranged for a Housing Services worker to support the family to explore other housing options which were more suitable for their needs.
Buddug also introduced Emyr to the Young Carers Project which offered him practical and emotional support. He met a new network of friends through his participation in the local young carers support group.
Intensive support ended after improvement was seen in all areas that were of concern. These included parenting, family, home safety and child development concerns. Jonathan was still invited to continue to attend workshops and activities at the centre.
* Names have been changed to protect anonymity