Launch of new homeshare scheme in Worcestershire
An exciting new homeshare initiative has been launched in Worcester with the aim of tackling two major needs in the city – helping young people to find affordable accommodation and providing support and companionship for older people.
Inter Generations Worcester, a partnership between Vestia Community Trust (part of The Community Housing Group) and the University of Worcester, is a home sharing scheme which matches people aged 55 and over who have a spare room in their home with students from the University. In exchange for accommodation, the student agrees to spend at least 10 hours per week with the householder and provide companionship or support in the home for everyday tasks. The initiative is based on the importance of a mutually beneficial relationship between both parties and a sharing of skills, knowledge and experience.
It is the first scheme of its kind in the County, although the concept has been in place in many countries across the world since 1975.
At a special awareness raising event held at The Hive and opened by Elizabeth Mills OBE, the Honorary Director of Homeshare International, the Inter Generations Worcester team explained how the scheme operates and the benefits already experienced by the first participants.
Guest speaker, Sophie Pryce, from Age UK’s Reconnections service, welcomed the new scheme and stressed how important it was to identify and support people affected by loneliness. She explained that it can be as damaging to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and that Reconnections, which provides practical and emotional support on a 1-1 basis, has over 1,000 participants in Worcestershire alone.
Careful selection and matching takes place to find sharers who will complement each other’s lifestyle and habits. Marina Banner, Executive Director Vestia & Corporate Services, said: “Although the team carry out regular visits and checks to make sure that everything is running smoothly and help to resolve any issues, we find that once a pattern has been established in the household, the support needed is minimal. We are very encouraged by the positive response we have received from the participants and their families so far and look forward to welcoming new home sharers.”
Louise Jones, the University of Worcester’s Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor, Educational Partnerships & Strategic Director for Health & Wellbeing, said: “We are really excited to be involved in the Inter Generations scheme. Our students already make a great contribution to the City through volunteering and working, and this is a further step to give something back to the community, with huge benefits for both individuals.
“We are working hard to find the right pairings and showcase what can be achieved through such an innovative programme. I’m thrilled that we are already seeing some wonderful friendships being created.”
Cllr John Smith, Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing at Worcestershire County Council, added: “We are delighted to be supporting this pilot project. This is a great example of the council working innovatively with partners to develop ways for older people to live well in their own homes. While it is a new solution for the county, there has been success in other countries with this type of solution. Worcestershire has a large number of university students and isolated older people, so this solution should make perfect sense.”
There is more information about Inter Generations Worcester on their website www.vestia.org.uk/intergen including a short film featuring one of the first home sharers to join the scheme.