Council Wants To Improve Links To Voluntary Sector

Scilly has a sizeable voluntary sector but it’s not working to best effect.

That was the opinion of Penny Penn Howard, Director of Adult and Children’s Services during a discussion at yesterday’s Shadow Health and Wellbeing Board on how best to tap into voluntary resources on the islands as a way to support residents with long-term medical conditions.

The Council has commissioned a report from GP Assist, a Cornwall-based Community Interest Company, which supports GP practices in the region, to help them understand how they could tap into voluntary resources more efficiently.

Their Director, Scott Bennett, told Councillors that they needed to improve links into specialist voluntary groups and charities, such as the Stroke Association, alcohol addiction networks and the Alzheimer’s Society, as a way to support patients on the islands.

Scott presented a vision of a patient on an Off-Island being supported through an online forum and corresponding through email and webcam with pen pals from the community.

He suggested that the Council set up a web portal where people could get more information.

But Councillor Chris Savill warned that many of the older generation on the islands were not computer literate and some had conditions affecting their speech. She also said the small numbers of patients with a particular condition here wouldn’t be large enough to create a forum.

Councillor Richard McCarthy said he couldn’t see how the over 80s on St Agnes would immediately find benefit from this.

And Maureen Carter, who heads up the U3A activities on Scilly, said many of the actions suggested in the report, like closer links to patient advocacy groups in Cornwall, were already in place.

Penny Penn Howard asked whether the research had been done during actual visits to Scilly, but Mr Bennett admitted it had been a ‘desktop’ exercise.

Aisling Hick said the Council would, by law, have to provide this type of information to the local population from next spring and the best way to do this would be via a web portal. She added, “all we’re trying to do is make friends” with the voluntary groups and charities.

Last November, the Council relaunched their ‘Island Response’ volunteer group and funded a fixed-term Volunteer Coordinator role for the islands.