New partnership scoops top award

Community Agents – the county-wide project supporting older people to continue living independently – may only be a year old, but it has scooped a top award for partnership working.

Essex County Council’s ‘You Make the Difference in Essex Awards” showcases those who work in new, flexible and collaborative ways to achieve the best possible outcomes for people across the county.

Community Agents beat off stiff competition to take the Partnership Award which is voted for by Essex County Council staff.

The project, which started last summer, is an innovative new approach to meeting the care needs of local people, now and in the future.

The Community Agents scheme is funded by Essex County Council and is delivered through a partnership between the Rural Community Council of Essex, British Red Cross, Age UK Essex Neighbourhood Watch and Essex County Council (ECC).

People are referred to the agents from social care, GPs and other healthcare workers, and other community and voluntary sector organisations.  Family and friends are also able to refer.  The Community Agents help frail older people and their carers to recognise, source and implement solutions to the problems they face, such as mobility, practical living skills, social isolation, personal safety and caring for someone. It does not duplicate existing services, but complements and adds value by linking and aligning with other services and organisations

“We all see the day-to-day positive impact on peoples’ lives and it is wonderful to achieve the recognition that this award brings,” said Andrew Gardner, Chief Executive Age UK Essex on behalf of the Community Project Board.

Cllr Anne Brown, ECC Cabinet Member for Communities and Healthy Living, which includes Community Agents, congratulated the team for taking the award so soon after the project was launched.

“The added value Community Agents bring in supporting older people to continue living independently in their own homes; in the communities they know and love is amazing. It is a wonderful example of voluntary organisations working together with Essex County Council to really make a difference.”

Overall 180 entries were received and a panel of ECC employees whittled these down to a shortlist of 27. The winners were announced at a celebration at Weston Homes Community Stadium in Colchester on Friday night.

Since July 2014 community agents have supported around 3,550 frail, elderly people and their informal carers across the county to maintain independent living.  Quarter of those supported were over the age of 85yrs and over half lived alone.  The majority of people said the agents had brought a positive change to their lives or their abilities to cope as a carer. From a sample of 50 people contacted after 3 months, 43 were still living at home, most without any additional support.

As the scheme continues to build on its success, it is looking for volunteers to support their work. 

“The role of the volunteer is very rewarding” said Tricia Earp, Area Operations Director, British Red Cross, “so we’d like to hear from compassionate people with a bit of time to spare and an interest in helping older people to live independently. The role is varied and we try to tailor it to suit the volunteer. Some might enjoy accompanying people to social clubs, for example while others might prefer to help with driving. Hours are flexible and we provide full training and support.”

To volunteer with Community Agents Essex call: 01245 291024 or email: