For those of you who have never been to Dumfries in South West Scotland, it is a beautiful rural university town with rolling lush hills, a stunning coastline, a rich heritage and a vibrant food and music scene.

I moved to Dumfries over 20 years ago on a temporary basis and never left. I had my two children here and have spent most of my working life, both paid and voluntary, in health and social care.

The long- term demographic challenge for health and social care in Dumfries and Galloway is that it has the highest population of older people in Scotland aged over 60. Many older people here are living with long term complex health conditions and many of them are socially isolated, especially if they are living in remote or rural communities.

Scarce public resources and this rising demand on services have created the need for the providers of health and social care to think creatively about providing care at home and building community resilience here in Dumfries.

A couple of months ago, I came across an intriguing job vacancy. The advert was completely unique and centred on the applicant’s values, experience and passions rather than a rigid list of requirements. The recruitment day was also a revelation with a focus on shared values, team building and communication.

I had applied for the role of Community Connector with the charity Community Circles and was delighted to be offered the job. Community Circles have partnered up with two local care provider organisations in Dumfries. Together they aim to provide an innovative model of care at home. Wellbeing teams will differ from the traditional model in being more person centred, fitting around the focus person and not the service.

As a Community Connector, I will be working with Rainbow Services. Rainbow Services have a history of providing excellent standards of individualised care. They share a vision to develop this with Community Circles building support around the focus person using person centred practices. The focus person will be more in control even down to choosing which wellbeing workers they want in their team of support. Each focus person is offered a Community Circle. Community Circles are a core part of wellbeing teams enabling people to stay connected to what matters to them. The new teams have been funded by the local authority and Rainbow Services were recently nominated for a national award in innovative practice.

During the induction for my role as Connector, I met up again with the wellbeing workers who had been chosen from the recruitment day. Over a period of four days, we developed the new Rainbow wellbeing team by sharing our values, our work experiences and what matters to us. This helped us to shape our team agreements and visions. The new teams will be self -managed. We learned how this will work in practice and each took on a team role. We learned how to bring our ‘whole self’ to work and ways in which we could take care of the wellbeing of the team too.  Wellbeing teams and Community Circles will take a ‘whole life’ approach to the wellbeing of the older people we will be supporting in Dumfries. The teams recognise that alongside being safe and well, it is also important for a person to be happy and fulfilled, doing what matters to them and staying connected to other people. About 6 weeks after starting support, the wellbeing teams will arrange for the focus person to meet me as a Community Circles Connector. I will talk to them about how their support is going so far using person centred tools and look at what has been working and not working, what matters to them and what they would like to change. For some people, this may be reconnecting with a faith group, friends and family or starting a new hobby.

We have been busy establishing the new team, building relationships and developingLesley and wellbeing team processes of self -management. I am excited to get started and passionate about making a real difference to people’s lives. I hope that in the long- term future we will together be able to start creating Community Circles at scale and share our wellbeing team practice and learning across the region.

Lesley Bryce



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