RSP Member - The Blackdown Support Group

THE BLACKDOWN SUPPORT GROUP – Working to relieve ill-health and isolation in the Blackdown Hills, Somerset/Devon border.

The population of the Blackdown Hills is dispersed across a large rural area. There are isolated dwellings and farms, hamlets and small villages. Due to poor transport links and lack of availability of services, the population of the Blackdown Hills has needed to become self-sufficient in many aspects of daily living. The rural nature of the area and changes to the traditional model of family support where grandparents, parents and children are less likely to live within the same community means that people can very easily become socially isolated and vulnerable.

The Blackdown Support Group, a charitable organisation working in partnership with local health professionals at the Blackdown Practice, makes a significant contribution to providing support for these isolated and vulnerable people. Around 70 volunteers, co-ordinated by a small team of part time admin staff, provide a range of services as and when local people need it.

Services include the following:

  • Escorted transport to health to hospital, doctor, dentist, physio and podiatry appointments, improving access to health services
  • Volunteer visits (otherwise known as befriending) – visiting people, often socially isolated, in their home to maintain independence, reducing the need for health and social care services.
  • Mentoring – to help patients through periods of stress and reintegrate back into their community without the need for more formal intervention, and highlighting where further help may be required
  • Social clubs – providing opportunities for social contact in a relaxed and friendly manner for hard to reach groups in rural communities
  • Advocacy – assisting people to ensure they are receiving the correct benefits to maintain independence
  • Foot care – a self-funding service to improve the foot care of those unable to manage it themselves
  • Short-term wheelchair loan
  • Disabled access vehicle – available for use by individuals and families in the community with specific needs
  • Supported shopping

The benefits are numerous – better access to, and more cost effective use of healthcare services, targeted signposting to social care services, supporting patients to get the social care and benefits they need, supporting patients in their own home to maintain independence, and supporting the practice to highlight where intervention may be required to avoid an admission to hospital.



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