Listen and learn – growing old in 21st century Britain! #cherwell

It takes a certain amount of courage to ask people to tell you  what they think of you.   And it takes a relaxed, informal atmosphere to  encourage people to be open and honest. And so it was when Cherwell Care, a home  care provider in Bicester, invited their clients along to an  innovative “Growing Our Community” event – and really listened  to what they had to say.

The afternoon started with a Whose  Shoes? workshop – with a difference! In addition to the normal Whose Shoes? scenarios, looking at all  aspects of personalisation from different viewpoints, there were new scenarios  exploring key issues around maintaining or regaining independence in the  community. We looked specifically at mobility, nutrition, use of technology and the wider challenge of “staying connected” in the community. We considered the roles of not just family and friends and informal carers but  people such as bus drivers, shop assistants, hairdressers… people who really have  a chance to influence whether older people “have a nice day” – or  not!

There was a real buzz in the room. A constant stream of post-it  notes was fed through to Carrie, our talented graphic facilitator from New  Possibilities in Birmingham.  Before long the huge blank piece of paper on the wall was filling up with words  and pictures reflecting all the “expert by experience” points that were being  made about what it is like to grow old in the 21st century.

The rest of the afternoon passed in a whirl – socialising over a  traditional afternoon tea with tiered cake stands and posh tea cups; a  “growing” demonstration by “the Flowerpot Men” including how to grow your own vegetables, even in tiny spaces; and new friendships

A taste of #Cherwell Whose Shoes? workshop

 blossoming.  Because it was half term, carers were invited to bring their children in to  meet clients who had heard all about them over weeks, months and sometimes  years. Children always bring a lovely vibrancy and this was no exception, but  something really appreciated by staff and service users alike.

We wanted to capture the event in ways that would be truly  memorable and interesting for the participants. People were relaxed as they  chatted on camera…

 We even got a few people  tweeting (see #cherwell!) as they embraced the possibilities of new technology.  The snippets that emerged are what makes an event like this so worthwhile –  good and bad, and there were plenty of each.

We all know that money is tight in public services but there is a  danger that “the cuts” becomes an excuse for totally unnecessary poor practice.  Examples such as one lady feeling obliged to get out of her hospital  bed to help others who couldn’t reach their  drinking cups, and another saying she was not allowed to help set the table in her day centre unless she was wearing rubber gloves(!) are just a couple of “care nuggets” to make us hang our heads.

Fortunately, there were really positive examples too! Age UK Silver Surfer  courses had brought a whole new life to one man;  helpful families, neighbours and reliable care  staff were similarly much appreciated. Also meals delivered to the door; alarm  systems to reassure the family; and recommended, trusted handymen. There was  special praise for a bus driver who always waited until everyone was seated  before setting off, thereby giving people confidence to use public  transport.

There were lots of great suggestions that would not cost huge  amounts of money: more seats inside shops, use plain English rather than  business jargon (they didn’t like the name “personalisation”!) and practical  sharing of ideas and simple tips – a rather deaf couple now know how to get  subtitles on their television!

People went away with potted plants that had been generously  donated – a practical reminder of the gardening demonstration. The owners were  visibly thrilled to have had the chance to meet their clients and were open to  new ideas and improvements. Owner Graham Barclay said “We have a real  opportunity to develop the service in line with clients’ wishes. This will be  really crucial over the next few years”. Similarly, his wife Eileen flagged up  a communication issue: “ the clients don’t know how to go about approaching a  social worker or their local GP” and pledged to help them get the information  and advice they needed.

A small extract from Carrie’s mural: Recording the key issues

Finally, the whole team, led by expert consultant Philippa Codd, the  mastermind of the event, studied the messages  and wonderful images Carrie had recorded and looked to the future. “More functions  like this” was emblazoned in large letters across one part of the mural.

Somehow I think that this event was just the beginning.


About Gill Phillips - Whose Shoes?

Passionate about personalisation in health & social care. Creator of Whose Shoes? - an imaginative approach to helping people work together to improve lives.
This entry was posted in Blogs, health, Learning and development, personalisation, social care, social media and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to Listen and learn – growing old in 21st century Britain! #cherwell

  1. Philippa Codd says:

    Gill, you have captured such a perfect day wonderfully. I will remember this occasion for a long while – the journey that Cherwell Care has been on throughout the last 5 months started out with them recognising that as a provider they needed to change their service model and they should be applauded for this. The Growing our Community Event was the pivotal point they had reached to enable them to truly begin to think about individual personalised services for their clients.


  2. Anonymous says:

    Gil, l having read your post and heard form Philippa about the amazing day you all had I am left seriously wishing I was there! Everyone looks captivated and thoroughly enjoying having the opportunity to have their say, share ideas and learn about the things that are important to everyone – inspiring!

    Thank you so much for sharing this and I have to say those cakes look too good to eat :0)


  3. Anonymous says:

    This sounds like a really innovative community engagement event. Great to see a small care provider really interested in talking to their clients and finding out how to make life better for them. It is often the small things that make such a difference. Older people often do not have much of a voice and deserve far more respect. Good to hear that you are asking for their views and really listening. Well done!

    I like the blog and am looking forward to hearing more about your work!


  4. I was actually present at this event as a volunteer and this article sums it up beautifully. It is really easy to put things right as a lot of them are common sense but somehow these are values lost in our today’s society. We can all make a difference in our local community. Let’s keep in touch and learn from eachother.


  5. Richard Jack says:

    The Cherwell event was really enjoyable and not just because of the excellent afternoon tea! It was a real pleasure to meet the range of people who were present, from the many service users and their carers, to the organisers and presenters and of course the gardening expert who rounded off the afternoon with his inspiring practical demonstration which showed how gardening doesn’t have to be all backbreaking digging! He showed that growing plants can help keep people of all ages physically active – planting out and caring for their containers, pots and hanging baskets. The discussions generated by the ‘Whose Shoes?’ board game were wide ranging and stimulating, raising many important issues which might otherwise not have been raised.


  6. Vic says:

    This is a great counter-balance to the negative stories we have had about social care over the last week or so. Residential care is a positive choice, as Gillian Wganer said 25 or more years ago, and this is an example of how it can happen


  7. Carrie says:

    Gill, the event that you and your team put on was fantastic, I feel very honoured that I got to be a part of such an inspiring, enthusiastic and thought provoking day!
    There really does need to be more of these events.
    My best moment of the day was how everyone who attended took part in the Whose Shoes board game, and how a simple concept got people talking about the things that matter most to them.
    I really enjoyed graphicing the event and I very much look forward to many more to come, as you have mentioned above, this is just the beginning..


    • Anonymous says:

      Gill, this seems quite an event. Everyone looks completely involved and focused. You have definitely inspired others. Such events when well run like this have such a positive effect for all of those in the sector. What’s more it gives everyone a voice and leads to greater understanding. I applaud your passion, enthusiasm and initiative. Well done.
      I also think the cakes look yummy


  8. Anonymous says:

    Thihk it sounds amazing.


  9. Anonymous says:

    If only statutory services were able to engage with people like this!!! Perhaps we would could make the best use of public money and more importantly ensure we are providing what people want – its so simply, all you have to do is gather people together in a social setting, ensure everyone feels comfortable and the usual power issues that come with engagement with services is deliberately absent. Give everyone the opportunity to chip in at their own level when and how they feel comfortable and have the stimulating environment,which enables participants to learn and explore choices of support – in whatever form that support takes for an individual.
    It seems it was also a brilliant forum for celebrating community capacity – providing everyone with a pleasurable and feel good experience and capturing all that valuable, spontaneous and creative information and reaffirming the value of all support networks.
    A fantastic demonstration of humanist, easy and enjoyable engagement with active and fully participating citizens – perhaps Local Authorities should try this approach to engage with their current and potentially new social care users – imagine this type of empowering engagement being used to make decisions about commissioning locally.
    Well done Gill and team – lets hope your exemplary practice spreads,


  10. Chris Isaacs says:


    Thanks for the Link

    its great to see people taking a active and positive approach to personalisation and involving the people who really matter – ie the service users (not that I like this terminology!)


  11. Andrew says:

    Gill a really full and inspiring community engagement event with some real positive feedback which I hope Cherwell Care have and will listen too. It will be interesting to see if they produce a response in a kind of ‘you said, we did” response, do you know if this is planned?
    Also the collection of good news, good ideas and just general good stuff makes a refreshing change.
    Certainly an event I wish I could have been a part of and hope others, not just in the care sector, recognise as a good way forward to making their services better (do you think some of the banks will see this 🙂 )


  12. Anonymous says:


    Sounds like a great event . It is so important for all organisations and providers to see things through the eyes of people who use the service. I thought it was interesting that people at the event did not like the term personalisation. I would be interested to hear what term they prefer.

    Thank you for the link.


    • Anonymous says:

      Well Gill, what can I say, the day sounds absolutly inspiring and I can truly believe that you played a very important part, having worked with you at Coventry CC and then when you set up your business on some oif the marketing elements to help you out.

      It’s good to see the areas which were covered and I really wish I could have been there or still be working alongside you. Whose Shoes is a fantastic board game and people learn so much from it, and I am sure you will soon be bringing out yet another idea.

      It’s nice to see that all benefited not just the service users and I hope that the thoughts are taken forwards to fruition.

      I wouldnt expect any less of you, you are an awe-inspiring person for this sector of our community, keep up the good work!

      Kathy Hunt, former work colleague and friend


  13. Theresa says:

    Well done Gill. The passion is evident as usual. Bringing people together to establish a fruitful way forward is part of the Whose Shoes trading ethos and was conspicuously achieved at Cherwell Care. What strikes me is that in any workplace, the interface between one group and another is where the communication matters so much. The communication cracks can soon become seemingly insurmountable, which is why events such as in Bicester are key. The captured comments are worthwhile for all parties. Well done again. Theresa


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