The OPAAL – Macmillan Cancer Support Partnership is thrilled to announce an additional investment of £1,000,000 by the Big Lottery’s Silver Dreams programme in Association with the Daily Mail to their Cancer Older People and Advocacy Programme – COPA.
During the last two years OPAAL and Macmillan Cancer Support have worked hard to make sure that over 170 older people are supported and enabled to exercise their rights, express their views, explore and make informed choices about their treatment and care.
The Flagship £1 million over the next three years will ensure we are able to extend our service to reach many more older people across England adding Bristol, Sandwell, Knowsley, Oxfordshire and Lancashire to pilot services in Sefton, Staffordshire and Dorset. Together over the next three years our new services will add over 300 new volunteers supporting over 1,000 older people affected by cancer to our national cancer support programme. So successful is our pilot three original partners secured three years continuation funding to expand their work in Dorset and Staffordshire.
This is a huge boost for OPAAL and we are deeply indebted to Macmillan Cancer Support who provided this funding as our new delivery partners will receive expert coaching and advice from these partners to get their new services off to a flying start. They will be the first to benefit from all the learning generated by our pilot.
Jagtar Dhanda, Head of Inclusion, Macmillan Cancer Support said: “We’re extremely proud of what this partnership has achieved. Securing this funding is a validation of how important this work is. This funding will ensure that the project goes from strength to strength, by reaching an even greater number of older people affected by cancer. It’s also a reflection of how partnerships can truly make a tangible difference.”
More than one in three of us will get cancer, and for most of us it will be the toughest fight we ever face. People living with cancer are starting down a journey into the unknown. Attempting to navigate a complex system whilst making speedy decisions about treatment choices and rights, the experience of accessing health and social care services can be confusing, isolating and frightening. Older patients and carers often experience a loss of choice and control.
Since July 2012 with the Silver Dreams Pilot fund and additional funds from Macmillan we supported over 170 older people affected by cancer across Dorset, Stoke on Trent, Gateshead and Southport. We recruited and trained older people who themselves have been touched by cancer, to provide advocacy support to their peers. Since then OPAAL and Macmillan Cancer Support have proved that for some older people, particularly those who have no one else to speak for them, having an advocate can be a real life-saver.
Consider the statements below from just a handful of those we’ve helped speaking about the volunteer advocates who supported them:-
Ron ‘I will not have to go to another appointment alone’
Alec ‘Janet and I are now making plans for when I’m gone’
David ‘I still don’t think I’d be here if I didn’t have your support’
Elaine ‘When you say you are going to be there for me I know you will be’
These people along with 173 other older people we’ve supported faced emotional trauma, anger, isolation, and the complete disorientation experienced by so many upon hearing a cancer diagnosis. They revealed real worries concerning caring responsibilities for loved ones, how to cope with the after effects of surgery, how to tell family members, find suitable accommodation, secure benefits, sort out debt, speak with health professionals to agree treatment and care and for the terminally ill how to plan for the end of life. These are just a handful of the issues faced by the older people we’ve helped.
Our deeply committed 62 Local and National Cancer Champions have done an amazing job promoting advocacy services and supporting our amazing 56 Volunteer Advocates. All advocates took time to build that all important trusting relationship enabling older people to confide worries and concerns. Our advocates, all of whom have experienced cancer themselves, understand the impact of a cancer diagnosis on the individual and are able to address worries and concerns with skill and sensitivity. We are indebted to them and the staff and champions who supported them.
Older Volunteer Advocates also gain a great deal from their advocacy work. They told us:-
“It’s working directly with older people affected by cancer that’s the best part of volunteering. I can see first-hand how cancer advocacy is improving the lives of individual older people affected by cancer who might otherwise not have been supported. It’s that which makes it all worthwhile.”
“As a volunteer advocate I was asked to be a cancer champion representative at national meetings alongside other project partners under the leadership of OPAAL. As well as opportunities to share good practice these meetings established the National Cancer Champions Board and agreed terms of reference, project plans and evaluation methodology and also supported applications to further develop and expand the cancer advocacy service. It’s great to think that I can feed in ideas and suggestions that directly influence national service delivery and I can take back ideas to consider locally.
I am thrilled that we are able to extend our work to more and more older people up and down the country. When older people hear of our services the first question is often ‘Why don’t we have an advocacy service like this?” now thanks to the Flagship Silver Dreams Fund and the continued support of Macmillan Cancer Support we can offer more older people the support and help they need.
We believe we have gone some way to proving that together we can support older people affected by cancer in real and meaningful ways to improve their understanding and management of the impact of cancer and also help them achieve lasting change and improvement in their every day lives.
That we have enjoyed this level of success is entirely down to the dedication and commitment of ALL our partners. We will continue to work with our eight strategic partners, six new Resource and Development Partners and our Local and National Cancer Champions. We will also create a new Health Professionals Board to help us work more closely with our health colleagues. Together we number 23 organisations plus many more represented on local and national cancer champions boards, over the next few weeks we will feature articles on the role of each of these partners supporting our project. I’d like to thank them all for their continued support, we simply would not be doing this work were it not for you.