My name is Joan Cox and I am a member of the Age UK Bristol Local Cancer Champions Board (LCCB). As an Age UK Bristol trustee I was very pleased when we received the funding from OPAAL to run a Cancer Older People and Advocacy Project, and was keen to support the development of this work. I hoped I could bring both professional and personal experience to the Board.
I have retired, but spent my working life in health and social care. Initially I worked in social work and vocational further education, then in the voluntary sector managing community projects, some part of national programmes, providing services for carers, people with dementia, and adults with other health needs including cancer. Many of these projects recruited and trained volunteers to work with service users. On a personal note I had cancer myself 25 years ago and am very aware of the impact of receiving a diagnosis of cancer. I was in my 30s, very fortunate to have the support of friends, family, and work colleagues during my treatment, and made a full recovery. Other people’s experiences, particularly those of isolated older people can be very different from mine, and this is why the Project is so needed.
There have been two meetings of the Age UK Bristol LCCB to date – in September and December 2014. My fellow champions are: Piers Cardiff (Macmillan Regional Volunteer Development Manager), Sue Perry (Age UK Bristol Trustee and former Director of Abbeyfield), Carole Dillon (John Dillon Foundation, a new charity for cancer care in the Bristol area), and Tracey Street (Macmillan Involvement Coordinator for the South West). Ben Sansum (Age UK Bristol Information and Advice Service Manager and the Project Manager) has supported the Board and acted as interim chair, taking minutes and distributing papers.
So far we are a small, but focussed and enthusiastic, group keen to learn about the progress of the other OPAAL projects around the country as well as thinking about how our local project is developing. We have shared ideas about many aspects of the project including publicity, referrals, volunteer recruitment and support, how we can use our local contacts and networks to share information about the work, and encourage others to join our Board.
With volunteers’ support for older people at its heart, the Cancer Older People and Advocacy Project reflects the wider ethos of Age UK Bristol. All our services for older people rely on volunteers to keep them running, and we are very keen to support volunteering amongst older people themselves as it offers opportunities to enhance their personal well being.
Across Bristol the project complements other support and services for people with cancer, and is being welcomed by local agencies as well as the individual older people who are being referred. We appreciate that it is still early days and it will take time for the project to grow and develop, but we are confident we have made a good start and look forward to the future. The LCCB has an important role to play guiding and overseeing the project and using our local knowledge, contacts and networks to help it grow.
Joan Cox, LCCB member, AgeUK Bristol