Fold Housing Association, Northern Ireland’s largest social enterprise, provides housing, care and support to 30,000 homes throughout Ireland. Fold was established 36 years ago when it introduced sheltered housing for retired older people, in need of quality and cost-effective accommodation. Since this time, the organisation has diversified into a multi-service provider working with a range of partners, assisting people to achieve greater independence and to live longer in their own homes.
Building on its core housing expertise, Fold introduced the Housing-with-Care model, enabling people to live in the community in a non-institutional setting. Residents can maximise their independence whilst engaging in activities such as reminiscence therapies. This service is delivered directly by the association and in partnership with the health and social care trusts and third sector providers such as Family Housing Advisory Services (FHAS), Prospects and mencap.
In 1993, Fold launched its Telecare service, supporting its own sheltered schemes through assistive technology. Today, Fold Telecare supports 27,000 homes, provides peace of mind and helps older and more vulnerable people to live independently. Users of the service do so for personal security. Alternatively, some may avail of the more advanced packages of care, e.g. for dementia, when sensors and detectors can be deployed. A 24 hour Telecare Centre manned by experienced call advisers monitors and supports those in need. Working with the primary and secondary care providers, Fold Telecare has enabled residents to live longer in their homes and to delay, and possibly avoid, hospitalisation.
Most recently, Fold in partnership with equipment and software partners Tunstall and S3, secured a long-term contract for the tele-monitoring of vital signs for people with diabetes, COPD and other chronic conditions. This public-private health partnership with the local health trusts has been reducing GP and out-patient visits and hospital stays. This partnership is the first of its kind in the UK and will see 2,000 patients accessing Fold’s nurse triage team based in the Fold Telecare centre. Already the service has attracted widespread interest from GB and Europe and was recently recognised at the UK TSA Crystal Awards.
Looking further into the future, Fold through a successful partnership with Atlantic Philanthropies launched its ‘Brain Bus’ service in 2010. The Brain Bus supports people living remotely in the community through a range of cognitive and physical therapies. Fold’s US-based technology partner, IN2L, developed technologies geared towards stimulating, entertaining and challenging older people with dementia. Fold is looking to extend its use to dementia assessment in partnership opportunities with the health and social care trusts. Fold also wants to expand its integrated domiciliary model with the health trusts through the roll-out of its award-winning Barnhalt Cottages housing model. The Extra Care Scheme was singled out by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and the Northern Health and Social Care Trust as the footprint for future housing and care delivery. And Fold has recently extended its ‘Hub and Spoke’ housing management support service into the community. This sees staff, through home visits and Telecare, help older people to sustain a tenancy whilst living in traditional homes.
John McLean, Chief Executive of Fold, advised: “As people are becoming older, so their health may deteriorate or perhaps they are born with a disability. In either case their preference is almost always to live independently. In such cases improved collaboration across the sector will deliver the best outcomes for customers and tax payers alike.” However as John points out, there is a need for more integrated commissioning as well as shared risk taking. “Whilst we recognise the benefits of joint commissioning, many services are constrained by the origins and classifications of their funding. Service delivery, rather than being person- or need-centred tends, to be defined more by its funding source.” We need a more flexible and collaborative approach to allocating funding for joint projects. And in the current economic climate, there should be greater risk sharing with a commitment by partners to the recurring funding requirements of services.
John explains: “We invest upfront in research and development and make long-term commitments either through bricks and mortar or technology. As monies become less available, there is a real concern that the innovation and investments of the previous years cannot possibly be maintained or repeated, where partners are unable to offer long-term funding commitments.” John welcomes the consultation on ‘Transforming Your Care’ and with it the chance to create an even better business environment for housing and health partnerships.
Contact: John McLean, Chief Executive: 028 9039 7102