The ins and outs of a community-based provincial program

December 10th, 2014

In 2012, the United Way of the Lower Mainland set out on a journey to mobilize and empower BC’s seniors by helping them with everyday tasks around the house and by connecting them with their community. In partnership with the Government of BC, the UWLM’s seniors program, Better at Home took to the community to facilitate selection of lead organizations that would best deliver Better at Home services to their most vulnerable seniors populations. As of September 2014, the Better at Home program has grown to 61 provincial programs and served over 6,300 seniors. Building on community assets and developing capacity at the program level are at the root of Better at Home’s work.

Setting up a local Better at Home program is complex. Building partnerships, developing contracts, handling insurance requirements, and finding the right staff all need to be tackled early on. For some organizations all of this is new, while others have years of experience in seniors work.

One of the duties of our local Better at Home coordinators is locating isolated seniors and pairing them with volunteers to help cultivate lasting relationships. Finding vulnerable seniors is difficult and time-consuming, as many are not engaged in social activities and are isolated at home. Finding volunteers can also be a challenge. Working with a vulnerable population requires diligent volunteer screening and training to ensure people are safe and prepared to deal with sensitive issues.

The Better at Home Provincial Office supports each program with program development, implementation and service delivery. On our online HUB, local coordinators meet, ask questions, and share information and valuable resources. There they can find easy access to the program handbook, resources, and information about other provincial programs that can support their work. In-depth training opportunities are available through webinars and in-person training, and every two months a teleconference brings the program coordinators together to share their experience and build their practice. In addition, the two provincial field coordinators are available for individual program support. They check-in regularly with each program, point coordinators to appropriate resources, connect them directly with their peers and pay the programs a yearly visit.

Every day we learn from our programs and while we learn, we continuously adjust Better at Home to ensure all seniors are served as best as we can. Ongoing learning allows us to expand the breadth and reach of the program. It has been an enlightening and fruitful journey thus far, and we look forward to continue to support the independence of seniors in years to come.

Building on community assets and developing capacity at the program level are at the root of Better at Home's work.