North Warwickshire to benefit from Compassionate Communities

Mary Ann Evans Hospice and Grapevine, through the Warwickshire Cares Better Together programme, are launching a pilot service in north Warwickshire which will see residents of Atherstone and Mancetter benefit from the development of compassionate communities.

A compassionate community is an approach to end of life care which highlights that death, dying and bereavement do not happen in isolation; instead a compassionate community encourages communities to support each other through the differing and varied stages of death.

In doing so, the service hopes to improve the quality of life for those approaching death – allowing individuals to live out their later years in a manner which reflects their personal choice.

A compassionate community intends to move away from a culture which focuses on negative connotations surrounding death, to a community which accepts death, dying and loss as a social issue – lessening the burden on health and social care services being solely responsible for offering support at a time of crisis or loss.

In developing a compassionate community, it is expected that the communities of Atherstone and Mancetter will build the capacity to show that its residents can offer support for one another in a time of crisis or loss. A successful compassionate community intends to:

– See death, dying and bereavement not as a taboo subject but a subject which is normalised within conversations in society;

– Death being managed in a more positive light would lead to individuals perspective of death changing.

Alongside ‘compassionate friend’ trained volunteers, a community organiser will be appointed to mobilise the local community and engage them in a dialogue about death and dying, care at end of life and the role that the community can play.

A compassionate community is personal to its locality, there is no fixed approach and the providers – Mary Ann Evans Hospice and Grapevine – will work closely with community partners and community residents in order to determine the approach which is best suited to them.

Explaining their story, understanding of compassionate communities and motivation for driving the project, Mary Ann Evans Hospice Chief Executive, Elizabeth Hancock, states:

“The Mary Ann Evans Hospice (Mary Ann) has been caring and supporting end of life patients and their families, within northern Warwickshire and surrounding areas, for more than 28 years. We, at Mary Ann, are fully supportive of the concept of Compassionate Communities and feel that it fits well within our existing community services”

“With Mary Ann being based within northern Warwickshire and already supporting people living in Atherstone and Mancetter we feel we have a good connection and understanding of the local area and people. One of our oldest shops is based in Atherstone and supported by over 25 volunteers. The shop has strong ties with local people and is well supported.”

“We understand the important role a compassionate community can take by not only supporting those at the end of life their lives, but also helping to reduce the isolation, sometimes felt by people with a long term illness and those close to them, and enabling them to become better connected with their communities.”

“We are keen to see the concept of Compassionate Communities developing and growing throughout the local area.”

In explaining their vision for a compassionate community, Adam Hives, project manager for Grapevine, said: “Death and dying can be difficult subjects to talk about. We want to bring the topic out into the open and create a strong dialogue within the Atherstone and Mancetter communities.

“We’d love to talk to residents as well as professional people to hear their stories so we can help people have more dignity, comfort and a greater support network towards the end of life.”

Councillor Les Caborn, Warwickshire County Council’s Portfolio Holder for Adult Social Care and Health, said: “I’m pleased that this pilot project has been commissioned by Warwickshire Cares Better Together as I know that Atherstone and Mancetter will benefit from being part of a compassionate community. It will help to lessen the loneliness occasionally felt by people at the end of their lives or with a longstanding illness, and will support the individuals close to them, allowing them to form better links within their communities.”