Blog: Thinking big about care for young and old
Published: 3 Jul 2018
At our Award Ceremony in June 2018, Lorraine George received the Pol Roger Award, which is given to a Fellow who has conducted an outstanding Fellowship and generated significant publicity for their findings. Below, she writes about intergenerational co-location, the issue she researched, and the journey she has been on since receiving a Fellowship, which has led to her speaking at an event hosted by the APPG on Social Intergration's at the House of Commons.
The biennial Award Ceremony of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust reminded me of the extraordinary range of issues that Churchill Fellowships address, from empowering vulnerable pregnant women to dealing with grief and surviving the death of a child. Each one represented one person’s passion to learn more about something they felt was important to them and to society.
I was honoured to have been awarded my Fellowship in 2017 to learn more about the provision of childcare and school reception classes based in residential care homes, known as intergenerational co-location.
The intergenerational practice that I observed in the USA confirmed to me the benefits this model can bring to two of the most vulnerable population groups in society, the very young and the elderly. I saw elderly residents gaining a sense of purpose through a reciprocal teaching and mentoring role with children. They feel valued and loved, which restores them to the community, making them feel less isolated and improving their sense of well-being. The children benefit from the love and support that is offered by these surrogate grandparents, which builds their self-esteem and confidence, positively impacting upon their ability to learn.
Below: the Pre-Kindergarten class at The Commons in Enid, Oklahoma, which Lorraine visited on her travels
If I had to sum up the difference that becoming a Churchill Fellow has made to me personally, I would say that it has given me a renewed sense of confidence in my ability to affect change. I have always been passionate about my work in early years education, originally as a childminder and most recently as a Child Care Development Worker based in the Early Years Advisory Team at Torbay Council. Yet having the opportunity to visit the USA and observe inspirational practice first-hand, and to spend time in the company of like-minded people, my enthusiasm has been fired like never before.
When I got back to the UK, I was almost overwhelmed by the question of how to go about sharing my findings. I decided to think big.
Since my return, I have not stopped talking about the benefits of intergenerational co-location. I initially shared my learning within my local authority, Torbay, who have been incredibly supportive, linking me to other teams and agencies who have engaged and helped me to build what is now a network of 12 care homes that receive visits from nurseries or childminders.
At a national level I found like-minded people such as Stephen Burke of United for All Ages and together we have started conversations with Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission, who are enthusiastic about developing intergenerational practice. I then shared my learning more widely through writing articles published in the national press and educational magazines.
All of these conversations have helped the Torbay Early Years Advisory Team to gain funding from the Department for Education to have two residential care homes renovate a room from which childminders can work on a daily basis. This will start in September 2018 and it will ultimately change the lives of the children and adults involved.
All of this has been achieved in less than eight months and it all started with simple conversations, which then rippled out further, linking more and more people together. Publicising the findings from my Fellowship has been key to having them implemented and receiving the Pol Roger prize at the Award Ceremony - an incredible surprise and privilege - is further vindication of these methods. That’s why my advice to those returning from their travels is simply to start talking.
Lorraine is pictured above at the Award Ceremony with guest of honour Nick Danziger, left, and Christian Pol Roger. Picture ©Clive Totman 2018