Bringing Caring to the Community

Bringing Caring to the Community

09 December 2014

As C.L.A.R.E.’s Creative Caring Communities pilot project gets underway in North Belfast, we spoke to Programme Manager Laura Feeney to find out more.

Tell me more about your project?

We work with the vision: “To create a community where all people feel supported and engaged, where people look out for one another and where everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential”.

C.L.A.R.E.’s Creative Caring Communities project is a community led initiative that aims to build the capacity of local people to support vulnerable adults and older people to live independently in caring and responsive communities.

The project is operational in a pilot phase based in Mount Vernon estate, expanding across North Belfast focusing on developing a sustainable and scalable community model that will achieve better health outcomes for individuals and increase capacity and social capital within communities.

C.L.A.R.E. is working with BHSCT, engaging with those most vulnerable utilising a community development approach with health promotion, prevention and early intervention embedded in the design and delivery.

Who will it benefit?

Vulnerable adults and older people referred by BHSCT Integrated Care Team engage with CLARE Community Social Worker to create a holistic living plan identifying areas they may require assistance with to support them to maintain their independence.

They are connected to the appropriate supports they require and assisted by local community champion volunteers to engage.

The project also supports with practical tasks for people who have little or no family networks, helping with light housework, personal shopping, attending medical and advice appointments, connecting them to local social opportunities within their communities, looking after a pet or getting out and about to carry out daily living activities.

What made it so necessary?

C.L.A.R.E. pilot has been designed based on the life experiences and challenges of individuals in receipt of adult health and social care support and those living with complex multiple health issues. The project worked closely with a trial group for a period of 1 year to understand and develop a service that is reflective of service user’s needs across the planning, design and implementation.

For those individuals who have little or no family networks life can be extremely hard when their independence is compromised through ill health and/or ageing. 

It is often the simplest of tasks that become difficult and cause feelings of helplessness. The CLARE project is responding to individual needs through local community solutions by growing skills, harnessing resources and maximising social capital to support those most vulnerable in society.   

The smallest things can make the biggest difference!

What makes this project stand out as innovative?

CLARE is a seamless model of delivery ensuring vulnerable adults and older people have access to the right support at the right time.  We focus on removing potential barriers to engagement in existing services by offering the assistance of trained community champion volunteers who carry out supporting roles for those who find it difficult to engage due a range of issues such as health, mobility, transport or lack of confidence.

Service users engaging only have to tell their story once and they are connected to the appropriate supports reducing the difficulties with navigating through a complicated system. 

When they have difficulty in accessing or engaging in supports we enable this to happen by removing the barriers they face. 

When they require support with tasks that cannot be sourced elsewhere we facilitate this by using trained community champion volunteers.

This is the first project in Northern Ireland receiving investment from the Big Society Bank through Developing & Empowering Resources in Communities (D.E.R.i.C) utilising a mixed investment approach joint funded by PHA. 

The project provides meaningful opportunities for capacity building, skills development and community regeneration within a safe and supported framework that will achieve better outcomes at a local and strategic level.

What challenges have you faced?

As the demand for the project grows we face the challenge of attracting and recruiting volunteers across North Belfast.

A robust volunteer recruitment, engagement and management process has been developed providing a range of volunteering roles offering opportunities for local people to gain a valuable volunteering experience, achieve accredited qualifications, increase social networks and improve employability prospects.

We are always exploring new and innovative ways to attract and recruit volunteers and will be hosting a number of recruitment drives in the New Year.

For more information on CLARE and their work, please contact Laura Feeney or you can visit their website:

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