The LifeLines programme for older people (defined as people over 50 years of age), was developed in the context of social policies emphasising prevention, active ageing, the promotion of independence and wellbeing and minimising the demand on health and social care services made by an ageing population.
LifeLines was a partnership involving Adult Social Care (Brighton and Hove City Council), the PCT, the Business Community Partnership, local BME and LGBT community groups, Impact Initiatives and the Retired Senior Volunteer Programme (RSVP), with Age Concern Brighton Hove and Portslade responsible for management and delivery. The partnership faced challenges in agreeing details about objectives and how they should best be achieved.
The evaluation, commissioned by the LifeLines partnership, was undertaken by the University of Brighton between July 2008 and December 2010.
Using a Theories of Change approach, the researchers sought to trace the development and record the achievements of the LifeLines programme in the context of social policies emphasising prevention and active ageing. This involved working with key stakeholders, programme partners and staff to explore their thinking about how objectives were to be achieved at the outset and later to reflect on the successes and challenges and to consider what had been learned about different ways of working with older people. It also involved working with volunteers across a range group activities and one to one support projects to explore their experiences and to understand what form a programme of voluntary action might take and why, to achieve positive outcomes for diverse groups of older people.
Participants have experienced direct benefits from the LifeLines programme, though there is little to suggest an immediate link with a reduction in demand for health and social care services. Work that aims to improve quality of life and wellbeing in older age cannot be based solely on action to minimise demands on health and social services.
The learning from the evaluation can help focus a way forward, contributing to internal reflections resulting from recognition that the original proposal did not sufficiently set out how an ambitious set of objectives would be achieved.
Our overall conclusion is that the particular role that a programme like this can play is in addressing the social dimensions of prevention and well-being. This may have indirect effects in terms of reducing demand on service provision, but the driver is more clearly that of improving individual and collective wellbeing. It may be that unmet need for specialist service input is identified and this may, in some instances, lead initially to increased demand for interventions that might prevent crisis input.
Our findings highlight the importance of involving older people as active participants in determining activities – including those that enable cultural differences to be expressed.
Download The LifeLines final report
Professor Marian Barnes
Adult Social Care (Brighton & Hove City Council)
The Business Community Partnership,
Local BME and LGBT community groups
The Retired Senior Volunteer Programme (RSVP)
Age Concern Brighton Hove and Portslade