Celebrating Triple C's Older Persons Project

In the earliest days of Triple C, around 2007, the Trustees decided a priority was to build upon the work of the three Liverpool 11 churches in serving local older people. All three churches had quite large older congregations and these provided contacts into the wider community. We had been given some funding (this was before the financial crisis of 2008 after which funding became more difficult to secure) and we had the flexibility to direct this towards employing a part time older persons worker. Our hope was that they would support older people, develop activities and groups and seek to provide opportunities to improve the quality of life, as is the aim of our Triple C.

Barbara Dickens was appointed as our first older person’s worker. She really established the project. In those earliest of days there was Knit and Natter at Leamington School, Indoor Bowls at St Christopher’s, and Young at Heart at The Good Shepherd and coffee mornings in various settings. Barbara was keen to reach more older people, helping them build new friendships and extend their range of daily activities and experiences. Much of the work was based in Norris Green. The existing housing estates were mostly built in the 1920s and 30s. At that time many young families moved into the new houses, delighted by the tree lined streets and three-bedroom homes with gardens. As our project began, many people who had grown up in these houses and remained in their family homes were now in the 80s and 90s and the older persons project played a significant part in many people’s lives. Barbara and the project were supported by volunteers, often early retirees who would enjoy active volunteering and were a great support, increasing our capacity. Barbara would also reach out to those living in sheltered accommodation and we’d work in partnership with Norris Green Community Alliance and others to run the popular Intergenerational Projects.

In time, organising days out and theatre visits became an important part of the project. Over the years, Barbara and her successor Alison organised coach trips to popular places like Bury Market, Skipton, Oswaldtwistle Mill and Llandudno, as well as further afield to places like York and Ludlow. There were theatre trips, including Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, Blood Brothers, Joseph and his Technicolour Dreamcoat, Lion King, Cinderella, Riverdance and The Lion King! As part of the Healthy Minds Project, we organised trips to the museums and art gallery and in time, welcomed guest speakers, like Liverpool historian Ken Pye.

Beyond that, there were healthy awareness cookery demonstrations, personal safety talks with the police and armchair exercises. We hosted events with CHATS, the Community Health Ambassadors Team with opportunities for blood pressure checks, cancer screening and freebies including fruit and veg and hand massages. There were seasonal and special activities, like floristry activities, D-Day and Jubilee parties, Christmas bell ringing and lots of opportunities to sing-along and dance, like with the Pirrie Players and the Waltones. A highlight of the year for many years was the Turkey and Tinsel Christmas Trip, often up the Lancashire Coast towards Blackpool and Ryecroft Hall where there’d be singing, dancing, laughter and celebrating. For many years, the two coaches were booked in a flash, and it was a highlight of the Christmas season. In Barbara’s final year as Older Persons Worker
(2017) we held a 10-year celebration at the Isla Gladstone Conservatory, with 100 older people, funders and partners, giving thanks for the amazing impact Barbara and the volunteers had in developing the projects.

Looking back, we can now see the impact that the Pandemic had on the Older Persons Project. Alison, the Older Persons worker (since 2018) invested hours in supporting older people in their homes, with volunteers we prepared and delivered 1000s of newsletters, activity packs and treats to hundreds of older people in Liverpool 11 and neighbouring communities. Our staff and volunteers walked miles delivering. We tried online groups, like a book group and with others, met online for occasional quizzes. We offered a supportive shopping service to those unable to get out and WhatsApp groups developed linking older people together.

As life began to return to a new normal, Alison and the volunteers encouraged individuals to venture out. However, many were cautious, even quite fearful about coming out after lockdowns. The team worked hard to provide safe spaces and to create attractive activities and events, but the momentum with the project was, sadly lost.

Another impact from the Pandemic, was the rise of the cost of coach hire and limited availability of venues (many closed in the Pandemic). With social distancing, coach capacity was at least halved, meaning costs doubled.

Then came the steep rise in cost of fuel (and more recently the cost-of-living crisis). At the same time, funding became more difficult to secure and funders priorities changed. This meant that the much-loved pre-pandemic trips were financially and practically beyond the capacity of Triple C.

Post pandemic reduced levels of engagement made it increasingly difficult for Trustees to make a strong enough case that the funding we were being given was making a significant impact. The reality was, at the height of the project, we were regularly serving around 60 people each week, with surges to around 100. The reality over the last couple of years, is that most weeks, we were engaging with between 15-20. Whilst we know those who engaged with the activities really valued them, from a funder’s perspective, this wasn’t always enough. Many funders require us to demonstrate how their money is make a difference and they want the largest impact possible. It makes sense that they want their money to be making a notable difference and that our project no longer matched their expectations.

The Trustees and staff team sought to turn the fortunes of the project around. In recent years Becky has invested so much, energy, enthusiasm and love into her work, seeking to connect with new older people and build up the project’s reach. She’s tried different groups, there’s been 55 Alive, Crafty Corner and Catch-up Café. There’s been Afternoon Teas, guest speakers and season events, but numbers have never bounced back sufficiently.

Over the years of the project, we received significant funding from two main funders, Henry Smith Charity (we received the maximum 9-year grant from them) and Steve Morgan Foundation. Other smaller and more local funders have also supplemented these funds, we’ve loved working with Cobalt Housing and West Derby Wastelands Charity. Steve Morgan Foundation supported the work through the Pandemic and understood the impact of these difficult recent years. Early in 2023, they gave us one more year of staff funding and throughout the year we’ve kept them updated with the challenges we have faced.

As we approach Easter 2024, the funding is now in its final weeks, and with regret, the Trustees have come to accept that the time has come, at least for now, for us to close the Triple C Older Persons Project. In conversation with the amazing volunteers who have over recent months sustained the project, we decided that the final two groups would close at the end of February 2024.

Our Operations Manager visited both groups, to support the volunteers and explain why we have reached this difficult decision and to invite those who had recently been engaging to a celebration meal. Two groups of volunteers and members enjoy meals out, sharing as ever in friendship, recalling memories and supporting one another. Gifts of appreciation were given to the volunteers, our friends at Graham Bryson Court and of course, will in time, be given to Becky, our Older Persons Worker.

As I write, Becky is seeking to find and communicate information about other local groups and activities. Lynette Skutt, our amazing Salvation Army Community Chaplain continues to offer support at Graham Bryson Court and other settings in the community. In time perhaps the local older people, alongside the churches, could look to reassess existing needs and the viability of beginning something new. In all of this we know we need to be realistic; times have changed since the early days of the project, money is more difficult to come by, we struggle for volunteers and the three churches that we work with are facing difficult choices too.

This update celebrating the Older Persons Project has been written by the Operations Manager at Triple C (Liverpool) and Helen Edwards, the Chair of the Trustees.

‘We have both been part of Triple C from its first days as a charity. We loved looking back on the Project, we shared smiles and some tears as we remembered. It has been with great sadness that the Trustees have made this decision, and they feel the weight of this. Many charities are currently facing difficult decisions due to capacity issues, often in terms of funding and volunteers. We know we’re not alone in this and it is difficult.

In 2023, we faced the decision to close the Food Pantry, a hugely significant source of support to many in Norris Green. We’re thankful that the Community Café is currently running well and would love to welcome more older people to the café each Tuesday lunch time.

In writing, it’s felt a bit like writing a eulogy and we know we’ll never quite do the project and the people it has served justice, but we hope that in writing here, we’ll help others to look back, celebrate and give thanks …. And maybe inspire a new project to emerge, possibly from another community group or members of the churches, a project that connects with this generation of older people.

Thank you to all who have supported our Older Persons Project. Thank you to those who have sent messages of support and appreciation. We have so much to be proud of – thank you for making it so.’

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