When people go to live in a care home, they often find that the relationships and opportunities that are an important part of everyday life for most of us become very limited.

When people go to live in a care home, they often find that the relationships and opportunities that are an important part of everyday life for most of us become very limited. Many care homes maintain excellent links with their surrounding communities, but this is a time consuming business and they can only do so much. There is so much more that can be done to help make sure some of the oldest members of our community can enjoy the best possible quality of life. But it won’t happen unless we choose to get involved. And it isn’t just the people living in care homes who benefit. You only have to talk to some of our existing volunteers to know how rewarding it can be for them as well.

That is why we and our partners – Age UK Essex and Independent Age - have developed the FaNs project. We have called it FaNs (Friends and Neighbours) because people who live in our local care homes should be no less our friends and neighbours than the people who live down the street. We can help the care homes to turn that idea into reality.

So what is FaNs? (And what is it NOT?)

FaNs (Community Friends and Neighbours) is a three year programme starting in 2014. It is funded by Essex County Council and managed by the three partner organisations (MHLECA, Age UK Essex and Independent Age) with MHLECA as the Lead Organisation.

FaNs is not an organisation in itself. Like My Home Life, it is an inclusive movement belonging to all those who choose to be part of it. They may be members of any organisation or none. What unites them is their shared commitment to a common aim.

Neither is FaNs a service to be provided by the MHLECA or any other organisation. It is a collaborative effort of all the people who choose to be part of it. FaNs can only grow and flourish if we, the people all across Essex who share its aims, choose to play our parts, whatever they may be.

The aim around which we ask the FaNs to unite is this: to help make sure that people living in Essex care homes can enjoy the best possible quality of life, according to their needs and preferences. Let’s make Essex the best place in the UK to be a care home resident!

To do this, FaNs will promote and support “community engagement” – the links between care homes and their surrounding communities that we know can open up all kinds of resources to enrich the lives of their residents. There are three main strands to the project:

  • Firstly, we will promote, encourage and support the development of networks of people, groups and organisations that may be willing to get involved with their local care homes as good friends and neighbours to the homes and those who live in them (The FaNs)
  • Secondly, we will offer practical help and support to the owners, managers and staff of care homes to take advantage of the opportunities the FaNs can generate
  • Thirdly, we will help the FaNs and the care homes to share their ideas and their good practice and to help each other to help care home residents all across Essex enjoy the best possible quality of life

Anyone who identifies with the aims of FaNs and is willing to take an active interest in the well being of people living in care homes can be a part of the FaNs movement. There is no formal membership, and no specific commitment is required. FaNs will need people who are willing to take on some specific roles to build up and keep the movement going, with our support. Some people who regularly visit care homes may need police checks and training, which we will offer. But the range of possibilities is almost limitless. For some examples, please see the section on volunteering.

A New Website for FaNs

In support of the FaNs campaign we have created a new website. The FaNs website offers you the opportunity to register your interest or join up as a FaN. You'll be able to read about other FaNs who are already involved to give you ideas about how you could make a difference to someone living in a care home. There are several FaNs already signed up, including Ambassadors such as Essex County Council, Colchester United Football Club, Essex University Students Union and Essex Fire and Rescue Service. For more information please visit

For more information please contact our FaNs Programme Manager:

Les Nicholl