Participle is innovating new approaches to ageing. Since September 2007 they have been working in a unique public-private partnership with Southwark Council, Sky and the Department for Work & Pensions, to design new services that will improve the quality of life and well-being of older people. Working with over 150 older people, they have developed Southwark Circle, a membership organisation that helps people take care of household tasks, forge social connections and find new directions in life. Open to all, regardless of levels of need or income, Southwark Circle is a model of how future services might look across Britain.
This is a social reform challenge, not just a public service reform challenge. The question is not just “What can public services do to improve quality of life and well-being for older people?” but rather “How can a locality mobilize public, private, voluntary and community resources to help all older people define and create quality of life and well-being for themselves?”. This requires radical change in the way resources are defined (beyond the formal social care system) and the way services and systems are configured (away from a near exclusive focus on care and towards building relationships and participation).
Public funding is just one among several flows of resources that go into the support of older people from unpaid carers, voluntary groups, paid-for services, and peer-to-peer support. Public services and systems must be re-designed accordingly. An effective approach must mobilise resources and activity from all these sources, not just redesign the public component.
Participle has developed early answers to these challenges in this project. They have worked with over 150 older people and family members over the last nine months.
The project started with two months of user research with older people and their families, generating insights into their hopes, fears, needs and aspirations. Based on these insights, they generated over 50 ideas for new services. They decided to focus on a service that would create a rich third age, and have spent the last five months refining our proposition, developing prototypes of the service and co-designing with older people and their families. They have tested models of the service with users and recruited people to take part in a rough trial of the service. They have developed a business case, received initial investment and will start to build the actual service, continuing to test with users over the next few months. Responding to demand, we plan to launch the service as a social enterprise in Southwark in early 2009. They also plan to work with additional local authorities to develop a national model.