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ManBus launched: St Barnabas House leads pilot project

Thursday 12 May 2016

St Barnabas House is leading on a new community pilot project which aims to reach out to men who are living with advanced illness and may have become isolated. Titled “ManBus”, the project, an extension of the hospice’s successful Community Companions scheme, will offer outings to men who would prefer a day out in a group rather than one to one visits in the home. Trained male volunteers from St Barnabas will offer outings on a monthly basis for up to 6 men, using the St Barnabas minibus.

The service is available to anyone living in the St Barnabas House catchment area, (approximately from Southwick to Littlehampton and north to Steyning and Henfield), whose ability to engage in their community is limited due to living with an advanced illness.

We asked our male Day Hospice patients for ideas on where they would like to go and what they would like to do on a ManBus outing. The suggestions ranged from going to the pub, visiting a stately home, and visiting Shoreham Airport. To enable the project to get started, two of our volunteers, Edward and Robert, undertook Community Companion training and MiDAS (Minibus Driving Awareness) training respectively. Our April outing went to Shoreham Airport, where the group watched the planes and had lunch in the airport café.   Robert said, “I enjoyed the outing and the time to chat and hear about peoples’ life experiences.”

Edward said: “I was a volunteer driver for the Day Hospice and was looking for a new role and challenge. I jumped at the chance to be part of the ManBus pilot project. This is a great way for me to get involved with some volunteer work that enables me to use my skills. I would highly encourage men to take the leap and volunteer as either a Community Companion or a ManBus Companion as it is great fun whilst doing something good!”

One patient who went on an earlier ManBus outing for coffee at the World’s End pub in Patching, commented: “I am new to the area and really enjoyed the company.”

The idea for ManBus was developed by Sophie Rantzau, Voluntary Services Manager, who said, “I have read several articles recently highlighting how men with advanced illness can become socially isolated and may shy away from one to one befriending, and how a group could seem less daunting!”  An extension from the successful Community Companions scheme launched in 2012, the key purpose of the ManBus is to empower people to adapt to their new state of being with dignity and to maintain a strong sense of who they are and what is important to them”.

Here Sophie explains more:

“Our Community Companions initiative has been incredibly successful. The scheme has supported over 300 people living with an advanced illness. More than 3,000 visits have been made by our companions, totalling in excess of 6,000 volunteer hours. Community Companions offer social and practical support to patients and carers alike. Companions may visit a patient at home for a couple of hours to have tea and chat, enabling their carer to take some time out. Some patients may be more isolated as they don’t have a live-in carer, in which case the visit from their companion is a much welcomed chance to socialise. Companions often take patients out of the house to visit a tea room or the shops.

We currently have 55 patients who are part of the Community Companions programme.  You might ask, why introduce a ManBus when Community Companions appear to be meeting patients’ needs so well already?  There are two main points, our female patients have very much embraced Community Companions and express how much they enjoy sitting and chatting to their Community Companion.  We have had many requests from male patients wanting to be matched to a male Community Companion and at times this can result in them waiting some time for a companion.  Additionally, whilst we are very fortunate to have many volunteers, only 22% of our volunteers are men.  And so the ManBus was started.

The challenges will be for us to find ways of reaching out to isolated men and understanding the barriers that may prevent men from utilising this social activity but we are delighted with the initial response we have received and look forward to building on this”.

The next ManBus outing in May is to Tangmere Air Museum and in June they are visiting Arundel.

To find out more about the ManBus you can contact Chris Lynch, Voluntary Services Officer, on 01903 706360 or by email chris.lynch@stbh.org.uk