Banbury’s Citizens Advice social programs need your input

Banbury Citizens Advice Volunteer Driver Service ' left to right: Brenda Carter, Keith Davies, John Bartlett NNL-181015-161928001
Banbury Citizens Advice Volunteer Driver Service ' left to right: Brenda Carter, Keith Davies, John Bartlett NNL-181015-161928001

Another feather in the already highly adorned cap of Citizens Advice (CA) will be the introduction of project Community Connect also referred to as social prescribing.

The project aims to provide advice and guidance for socioeconomic problems that manifest themselves in physical and mental health ailments such as depression.

The project will work in conjunction with Oxfordshire GPs who will have the option of referring patients to CA.

Keith Davies, volunteer manager, said: “People who self-refer to this service, or who are referred by their GP will be contacted by a ‘community navigator’, who will talk to them to ascertain what their interests are and what they hope to achieve.

“The navigator will link them with community activities and groups and support them to take part, until they are confident to attend on their own.”

Sharon Graham, head of operations and projects, said: “It is aimed at reducing the stress on the NHS.

“The point of social prescribing is a lot of people present at GP surgeries and the doctors are medicalising their problems but they actually have a social cause.
“If someone goes to the doctors and says ‘I can’t sleep’ and the doctor says ‘here are some sleeping pills’ when the sleeping pills run out the patient will be back.”

She added: “The question we should be asking is why can’t you sleep. GPs just haven’t got the time for that in ten-minute slots .”

CA already accepts self referrals which will adhere to strict patient doctor confidentiality protocols.

GP surgeries are currently being contacted by CA teams and they hope to have the project fully operational early next year.

Mr Davies added: “One of our strengths is the advice service we run and the project work we undertake, all provide a platform of holistic support for people in Cherwell and by working closely together, we can make access to all our services seamless.”

GP surgeries wishing to join email info@communityconnect.me.org.uk.

The Volunteer Driver Service, formally part of the Volunteer Connect project is another project currently undergoing a rebranding.

It runs essentially like a version of Uber; people wishing for transportation call up CA, give details of the future journey, then CA assigns a suitable driver to the request.

Keith Davies, volunteer manager, said: “We have quite a lot of people looking to get to appointments, doctors, hospitals or even going to the RVS to play some bingo. It is not all elderly people but our biggest thing is older people going to hospital appointments.

“We’re doing over 4,000 miles across the district every month.”

There are some parameters users of the service must adhere to but for those that qualify the service is a support they cannot live without.

Journeys must be scheduled two days in advance, the service cannot accommodate wheelchairs or those who may need medical treatment to complete the journey but drivers are keen to help those with limited mobility, often waiting for passengers during their appointments, and helping them access buildings they need to visit.

Mr Davies said: “The basis of the service is if you have no reasonable alternative. Say if you live in a village but the bus service has been drastically reduced, which is happening.”

Compared with regular taxi services the service offers an affordable alternative with users paying 45 pence per mile from the outset of the journey from the drivers home.

As the name suggests volunteers are the lifeblood of the service and those involved in the scheme are asked to dedicate two days a week.

Keith said: “The more volunteer drivers we have the better.”

To find out more email info@volunteerconnect.org.uk or to use the service call 0300 3030 126.