A community team in Bridgend is providing vital support to people who need help with their health and wellbeing responding to more than 4,000 calls during the past 10 months.
The Community Navigators service, which is run by BAVO (Bridgend Association of Voluntary Services), helps people to access information and activities in the community that will help them maintain their independence and improve health and wellbeing.
It is aimed at adults aged 50 and over, people with dementia or learning disabilities and carers and helps to prevent their circumstances deteriorating to a point where they may need to see their GP or social care services.
This can be compounded by struggles with anxiety, social isolation, bereavement and loneliness and the Community Navigators work closely with individuals to provide help and support that meets their needs.
During lockdown, the number of people who needed help rose dramatically. The service was expecting around 300 contacts for support in the year but actually received 4,444 calls from vulnerable people in just ten months.
Kay Harries, Operations and Partnership Manager for the BAVO Community Navigators Service, said, “Our role as Community Navigators is to signpost anyone living in Bridgend County Borough who needs help with their health and wellbeing, to access the right support within the community.
“During the pandemic our roles have changed considerably and it has become clear that so many people have really needed our help in a variety of ways. We have been able to step up and support individuals who were shielding or too anxious to leave their home and organised volunteers to do pick up shopping, prescriptions and provide basic needs.
“We were also able to provide emotional support and help people to stay connected and feel better, which is always our key aim.”
The Community Navigators service is delivered in partnership with Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board and Bridgend County Borough Council’s Resilient Connected Communities Programme.
There are five Community Navigators working across the Bridgend area and they work with individuals to identify their needs and then support them to access community services or activities that they feel are right for them.
The navigators then re-connect with that person to check how they are doing, what benefits they have gained and ask if they need more help. If someone is identified as not having accessed support, more help will be given.
Anyone who is feeling vulnerable can get in touch. Individuals can self-refer along with GPs, mental health groups and other third sector organisations.
Gail Devine, Community Navigator Team Leader for Bridgend, said that it’s not about putting people in a box but about finding out what matters to them and what support could help to improve their wellbeing.
She said, “We work with people who have low level mental health issues and talk about their daily lives, how they are feeling and try to identify activities that are local that will help.
“We can support people with a wide range of support from providing food bank vouchers, connecting with others in a coffee morning or mental health group to helping to access transport, all with a little hand holding to help them get there.
“It’s really simple but really effective. We know from our community groups that they see people with increased confidence and motivation, who feel like themselves again and part of the community.
“Please get in touch with us and we’ll do all we can help. There is always something that can be done”
The Community Navigators are part of a range services in the community that are being highlighted as part of Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board’s #YourLocalTeam campaign.
The campaign aims to raise awareness of the range of professionals in the community who can help patients without the need to go to the GP
To find out please contact BAVO on 01656 810400, email email@example.com or visit the website www.bavo.org.uk/get-help/help-for-individuals/community-navigators/
BAVO is now operating an ‘out of hours’ signposting service evenings from 5 – 8pm and weekends 9am – 8pm for information and advice to access community level services, information and activities.
*For further information please contact Alison Watkins in the communication team on 07854 386054 or email Alison.firstname.lastname@example.org
Community Navigator case study
Ernest lives on his own and has an elderly dog called Charlie. He suffers from depression and anxiety and, because of recent lockdowns, has been feeling lonelier and more isolated. He has no family in the area and also had an issue with conditions within his flat.
He was referred for support by the Community Psychiatric Nurse and was contacted by Jackie, one of BAVO’s Community Navigators.
Ernest said: “Jackie rang me to introduce herself and ask about the help I needed. The first phone call lasted for over an hour, because I wanted to explain about some of the things I have been through in the past that have led to me being in the situation I am in now. Jackie was easy to talk to and was interested in what I was saying.
“The only time I see anyone is when I take Charlie for a short walk and wave to my neighbours if they are in their windows. Jackie suggested telephone befriending so that I could speak with someone regularly to help with the loneliness. I thought that would be a great idea and agreed that she could send a referral to Community Companions for me. I’m looking forward to speaking to someone regularly.
“The reason I have been feeling so depressed was because of the state of my flat. I would like to invite people to visit me for a chat but, because of the amount of stuff I have in it, I would worry that a visitor could trip over, or that something could fall on them.
“Jackie told me about a Local Community Co-ordinator for my area. She said that he could provide longer term support than she would be able to. I was ok with that, and agreed to her referring me to him for support with my flat if he could help.
“The thought that there are people out there who can help me has been a great relief and Jackie has been a great help with arranging everything for me.”
* Real names changed to protect identity.