Our organisation, R&RA (Essex), which launched in 2008, was incorporated as a non-profit Company Limited by Guarantee in June 2010.
Although the initiative came originally from the County Council, the Association is completely independent and is run by a Management Board chaired by Brian Mister, who is well known to many people working in social care as one of the most dedicated champions of the voluntary sector in Essex. Brian was recently awarded MBE in the New Year Honours list for 2012.
The Association employs one full time staff member, Debbie Tanner (Development Officer), and otherwise relies entirely on voluntary effort. Its main services are the expert advice available through the advice line and local support to older people and their families, both those who are considering, seeking, or trying to arrange funding for residential care, and residents in some care homes who are visited by R&RA (Essex) volunteers.
Over the past two years, the Directors of R&RA (Essex) have watched the development of another project, also sponsored by Essex County Council; this is My Home Life Essex (MHLE), which aims to create a positive culture in care homes, based on a relationship-centred approach and provides an opportunity for all stakeholders including residents, relatives, and care home managers; to share good practice and support initiatives that improve the quality of life of all those who live or work in, or visit a care home.
Our Directors have come to the conclusion that the R&RA (Essex) should be part of this movement, which can bring together all the different organisations with an interest in the wellbeing of care home residents without depriving any of their identity or autonomy. What is more, the Association can make its own distinctive contribution to the movement, with its specific focus on the people who use, or are considering using, residential care services.
To this end, the Association will be changing its name to reflect its support for MHLE. The new name which will be formally adopted shortly is My Home Life Community Association (Essex). The existing advice and support services will be maintained, although they may be provided in a slightly different way in future. It is also taking the lead with a new initiative, the Community Visitors Project.
This new initiative is designed to bring well trained volunteers into longer term relationships with their local care homes to work with residents and staff in support of the objectives of My Home Life (The Community Visitors Project). More information about this new project is on the MHLE website in the Christmas 2011 newsletter.