Background and Context:
Many older people in the UK often experience a loss in choice and control, finding it harder to participate and access services. Macmillan has identified that this is acutely felt during a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Our Age Friendly Cancer Care programme addresses the large-scale disparities in access to good quality and appropriate services for older people living with cancer.
Peer advocacy programmes have proved to be effective in supporting and enabling people to access their rights, express their views, explore and make informed choices about their care. Macmillan Cancer Support wanted to explore whether having an advocate would help older people cope with the effects cancer has on their lives, and also raise awareness about this model of care.
Partnering with the Older People's Advocacy Alliance (OPAAL), we piloted a programme for older people with a cancer experience to support those seeking advocacy services for their cancer journey. OPAAL’s advocacy skills were aligned with Macmillan’s expertise in cancer care.
The partnership uses existing advocacy services to develop a mix of independent and peer advocates to reach older people, and has been running since 2011. It operates across ten pilot sites in England and Wales. By November 2013, 61 advocates had been trained and 168 older people were provided support. We have reinvested for another three year partnership, extending to more sites with the expectation of adding over 300 new volunteers.
Outcomes/What was learned:
Advocates related that some issues were easily resolved, such as access to benefits or transport; others were complex and had several components, and required much more time and resource than the programme can provide. Further work is planned, in collaboration with health professionals to understand how the service can best complement the NHS, and increase referrals to the service.