Caring in company: a pre-Covid snapshot of day centres in south London: Report of a mapping exercise of publicly available information from four south London boroughs

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Day services are potentially valuable places for people with social care and
support needs, who want to live at home yet seek the company of others. Their
staff and volunteers offer companionship, care, advice and support. Centres have different purposes; many support older people with disabilities, others support people with experience of homelessness, people with palliative care needs, or people needing mental health support.

This research was undertaken to better understand day services in south London
as an essential part of social care pre-Covid 19. Between January and September
2020, we collected information about day services for adults with diverse social
care needs across four south London boroughs (Kingston, Lambeth, Lewisham
and Merton). Altogether, 65 day services were identified as serving five of our
six target groups (older people, people with dementia, people with complex
disabilities or long-term conditions, people experiencing homelessness, and
people with mental health problems); no day centres for people with palliative
care needs were located in the boroughs. They were operated by local authorities, private companies, or the voluntary and community sector. We also identified a wealth of community-based associated services in addition to day centres, such as lunch-clubs, drop-in cafes or advisory services that are open for shorter times or by appointment.

The research process itself revealed how hard it was to identify day services for
certain groups, including for people with long-term disabilities and older people, when primarily using the internet. Furthermore, the regular changes to day services mean that information often becomes out of date, with various services or activities being altered, shut or moved, with limited information on where future enquiries should be directed.

Information needs to be more accessible, so that potential service users and their carers can find and use information on day services online. Potential volunteers need such information too. This is also a time when new services such as social prescribing are developing and their staff will need accurate information about local services to avoid wasting their time and others’. Some day centres need to better communicate and advertise their services and think about how to meet any gaps in their public relations and business strategies.

Furthermore, this map of day services across the four south London boroughs, although not exhaustive, will be a baseline for research into services during and after the Covid-19 pandemic, which at the time of writing (April 2021) is still ongoing. Services that offer company to people who are not generally able to access other community facilities should be in a prime position to help rebuild wellbeing and reduce the harms and risks of loneliness.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherNIHR Applied Research Collaboration South London
Commissioning bodyNational Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Applied Research Collaboration South London (NIHR ARC South London) at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Number of pages54
Publication statusPublished - 21 May 2021


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