Signpost launch to help elderly

Launching the Signpost initiative to help the elderly in Shropshire are community group organisers, clockwise left to right: Simon Kenton, Jenny Watkins, Gaynor Hadley, Stuart West, Rob Price and John Das Gupta, Community Fire Safety Group Manager for Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service

A new initiative to point elderly people in the right direction to seek a helping hand has been launched by Shropshire community leaders – with the aid of Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service.

Group Manager John Das Gupta, Head of Community Fire Safety, helped to launch the Signpost scheme which aims to reach the most vulnerable "at risk" elderly to help them to keep warm, stay safe and secure and with enough food and money.

The scheme will operate through routine home visits carried out by firefighters, health visitors, police and welfare teams, who will refer anyone who needs extra help to the Signpost organisers who will in turn arrange visits from organisations which can provide help.

Signpost was designed to ensure each partner agency acts as the" eyes and ears" for each other, making referrals and highlighting concerns that can be swiftly dealt with, said Mr Das Gupta.

"This provides Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service with a fabulous opportunity to improve the safety and lives of the elderly community in Shropshire by the establishment of a real partnership that is effective in delivering change, something that we have worked long and hard to achieve."

Shropshire Fire and Rescue Service has targeted a large proportion of its prevention activities on the elderly. One of the "major barriers" faced daily by firefighters was identifying where elderly people lived as they are recognised as being in more danger from house fires.

Through working with partner agencies, this problem could now be reduced, said Mr Das Gupta.

Firefighters had been frustrated in the past to see many elderly people in need of help while carrying out routine visits to install smoke alarms, he said.

"Our firefighters have always done everything they can to help anyone who is in need but now with this co-ordinated approach it means the right sort of help will be directed towards the elderly resident very quickly.

Fire, police, Shropshire Council, benefits teams and voluntary organisations are behind the initiative to work with Shropshire Community Council to support Shropshire's growing numbers of elderly now living on their own.

"The elderly are the largest population growth area in Shropshire and it is imperative for the future that we ensure they are looked after. Together we can work to prevent accidents in the home, ensure people are kept warm and have enough food to eat and that they can access organised support services," said Stuart West, the county's elderly person's champion, who is also chairman of Shropshire and Wrekin Fire Authority.

"By taking a joint approach with statutory agencies and voluntary organisations, it is aimed to meet the needs of people who are not currently receiving services that enable them to live independently or focus on extra services to keep them safe." said Signpost co-ordinator Gaynor Hadley.

29th April, 2009