Care4Care is the brainchild of Professor Heinz Wolff. With circular glasses, a ring of curly grey hair and German accent he could be the archetypal mad scientist, and is recognisable to many from appearances on TV shows such as The Great Egg Race. Quite apart from his TV career though Heinz has been a Professor for the last 30 years at Brunel University, working on everything from assisting living for older people to the UK space programme - clearly he is no mad scientist in` reality. Creating numerous clever tools to help the elderly live independently for longer it struck him that what was needed was not more technology but more people caring for each other. This was the genesis of Care4Care. When combined with the coming ‘agequake’ (for the first time in history in the UK the number of
people over the age of 60 outnumbers those under 16) and severe pressures on budgets, the demand for increasing the resources of care available was clear.
The idea behind Care4Care is simple. It provides support for older people through mutual exchange: “support provided by me now in return for support for me later”. Care4Care members earn ‘care credits’ by supporting/caring for an older person in their local community. The hours of support members provide are recorded in their individual care credit account for future use.
The Young Foundation became involved with Care4Care around a year ago, after a meeting with Heinz and the rest of the team at Brunel. As part of its remit, the Young Foundation supports social enterprises to develop and immediately saw the big potential in this idea.
Working in partnership Care4Care has already developed quickly in the last year. Initial funding from Nesta and now Big Lottery funding from August has enabled Care4Care to establish a pilot site on the Isle of Wight. Over 100 members have taken part in the pilot since March and many other groups and individuals are interested in developing Care4Care in their areas. The interest in the project is almost overwhelming with the need for something of this nature being demonstrated time and again.
There are too many stories to relay them all here, - but instances such as the volunteer who had to rescue a woman locked in her home and too scared to leave - or another member noticing an unsafe electric heater that was the sole source of warmth in an elderly gentleman’s house – demonstrate how Care4Care members are already having an impact
To develop further Care4Care requires three things: funding, partners, and members. Currently they are grant funded and looking to move to a membership fee - in the meantime support to keep the central organisation going is essential. The model is to partner with existing organisations who are providing care and expand their volunteer base through the addition of credits. Although we have many potential sites, suggestions and proposals are always welcome. But most importantly to make Care4Care a reality we’ll need people actually out there willing to, or already giving, care to their neighbours. If you are interested please sign up at care4care.org