Silver Circles

End of Project Report – October 2017

In July 2014 Comic Relief confirmed that they would provide grant funding to Future East to continue to deliver the Silver Circles Project. This had previously been developed and delivered in partnership with a charity called COVER. Comic Relief agreed that Future East would receive three years’ funding, under their Healthier Finances theme, to create Silver Circles of older people across the Eastern Region to support them to have:

  • Better knowledge of benefits that are available to the participants, their friends and carers
  • More understanding of how to find deals that will save them money on essential areas of spending
  • Less anxiety about their financial situation

The Silver Circles were originally anticipated to be small supportive groups of people of 8-10 people over the age of 60, sometimes including friends and neighbours, or members of an existing group, who met for several weekly sessions of Conversations facilitated by a Conductor. The Conductors were trained to share up-to-date information with participants about benefits, money management and learning about better spending habits in order to achieve the above goals.

Future East contracted a community organisation, DiY Communities CIC, to develop and deliver the Silver Circles project under the guidance of the Trustees. The project co-ordinator employed by DiY Communities, with the agreement of Comic Relief, expanded the project to:

  • Include people who were 50 and over
  • Include Carers and support organisations of people who were 50 and over
  • Deliver one-off workshops, peer to peer information sharing and Silver Circle ‘Friends’, enabling the project to reach at risk and isolated older people in their own homes
  • Provide 1:1 information by having a stand at relevant events such as Care for Carers’ days and Golden Age Fairs
  • Work in partnership with other organisations to reach potential beneficiaries
  • Receive training from partners to ensure our information and resources are up-to-date and effective

At the start of the project we proposed that over the 3-year life of the project there would be:

  • 250 direct beneficiaries i.e. people who were 50 and over and/or a carer who benefited from information received directly from a Conductor. We supported over 450 direct beneficiaries.
  • 15 front line staff trained to support older people. We trained over 140 front line staff and volunteers from support groups, Councils, Voluntary Organisations and Housing Associations
  • 300 people who benefited when the above two groups shared useful information with at least two other people such as friends and family. This should be increased to 906.

The Silver Circles’ project has been delivered across the Eastern Region to groups of 8-70 attendees. Weekly sessions and one-off workshops were delivered to Luncheon clubs, coffee mornings, The Carers’ Trust, Sheltered Housing, Parkinson’s Carers, Caribbean Retired Nurses, The Bedford Guild House, Future East Open Meetings, and Day Centres.

Resources developed and used during the last three years have included:

  • budget sheets to help manage money
  • benefit pairs activity to highlight new and existing benefits such as PIP, DLA and Attendance Allowance combined with an information sheet
  • information about shopping around at renewal time for energy providers, insurances, mortgages and other services
  • Information about avoiding scams via the internet, telephone, post or a knock at the door
  • A ‘Taste the Difference’ test to change perceptions that supermarket own brands couldn’t taste as good as well-known branded items of food or drink.

Beneficiaries have included people who:

  • Changed their provider after paying £300.00 a month for their energy bills
  • Reduced their mortgage interest from 8% to 2.5%
  • Applied for Attendance Allowance
  • Had an Age UK Health Check and been able to apply for benefits
  • Use budget sheets to make informed decisions on how they manage their money

Unfortunately, the Silver Circles project has now come to the end of its three-year funding from Comic Relief.  It has been more successful and achieved greater results than initially hoped for.  We are still receiving requests to deliver workshops to groups across the Eastern Region, to provide training to Housing Association staff so they can better support their older tenants, to attend events that support older people and carers and to provide updated resources. This is especially true about changes for some existing recipients of the Disability Living Allowance who may have to have an assessment for the Personal Independence Payment, or understanding about the Council Tax Reduction Scheme, which is not means tested and is applicable to residents with certain physical or mental health disabilities such as dementia.

Future East will continue to seek funding to deliver this project. It is unique in the way it delivers money management information to groups of older people before they get to crisis point. If you are a member of a group of older people or carers, or an organisation that supports older people, please contact Future East to discuss how we can work together in the future.