New support for Canterbury’s older people

Tessa Ivory was welcomed to the new role of Parish Community Support Worker.

24 March 2017

New community worker sees Age UK Canterbury and local churches working together

Tea and biscuits were in good supply at the Acorn Cafe in St. Stephen’s Church Hall last Tuesday as they welcomed Tessa Ivory to the new role of Parish Community Support Worker (CSW). Working across the parishes of St Stephen’s and All Saints in Canterbury, the new post has been developed with support and funding from Age UK Canterbury, the Diocese’s Mission Resource grant, Kent County Council, and the Dunhill Medical Trust.

For some time the parishes of St. Stephen’s and of All Saints in Canterbury have been exploring the possibility of an employed position that could provide support, signposting and minor interventions to the older members of the parishes.

Kevin Maddy, Priest in Charge of St Stephen’s church said that the idea had stemmed from recent experiences that had seen some parishioners lose their confidence in attending church or social activities as a result of health or other issues:  “It led to their increased isolation from the community and even escalated their admittance to hospital or care. As churches we wanted to find another way of be able to keep in touch with these valued members of our community, offer them support, and avoid crisis occurring.”

Phil Greig Vicar of All Saint’s church said that developing the role with the expertise of partners like Age UK Canterbury had been vital and meant that it would have real impact: “Our hope is that Tessa will be able to identify those in our areas who are not currently accessing any or many of the services that they may need. This could be from GP appointments, social activities, the Over 60s community service, and even a visit from the local vicar!”

According to Age UK figures, it is estimated that among those aged over 65, between 5 and 16 per cent report experiencing loneliness, and 12 per cent feel isolated. The population of Canterbury in line with the county of Kent is getting older, and so the challenge placed on statutory services is only likely to increase.

Ahead of starting her new role Tessa said:  “I am very excited about this new opportunity and look forward to meeting everyone in the parishes of St. Stephen’s and All Saints. I will endeavour to do my very best to assist the residents of these areas, offer them bespoke support and increase wellbeing and social inclusion for older people in these communities.”