Changing the face of ‘hospice’ in Barrow

Categories: Featured and People & Places.
St Mary’s Hospice in Ulverston

Val Stangoe, CEO of St Mary’s Hospice in Ulverston, Cumbria, explains how their new building in Barrow will help the charity reach more people in the local community.

St Mary’s Hospice is delighted to announce the near completion of part two of a three part refurbishment in Barrow-in-Furness.  In part one we relocated our Furniture Warehouse to a bigger building. In part two we are turning the two storey office block fronting that into a collaborative wellbeing centre. In part three, already underway, the back offices will host small craft businesses and projects.

Currently Barrow residents make up 40 per cent of St Mary’s Hospice service users. As our largest local population we want to ensure good access through referrals from Barrow, but in a rural area with transport difficulties and historical reluctance to travel between towns, there was a question of how best to do this.

Barrow is an outlier in a relatively rich county. It is one of the 10 per cent most deprived wards nationally, with a ten year lower expected age of death than surrounding towns and 61 per cent of over 65s living with a disability or life-shortening illness. However, despite financial deprivation, the population of Barrow has a strong community heart and has long been a generous supporter to the hospice. 2018 will be the time for us to find ways to return that support to the community.

We did not anticipate at the 2017 Away Day that the agreement to source a new base for our Furniture Warehouse would lead to us also finding the new hospice resource in Barrow we had envisioned.  Imagine our excitement when during an exploratory visit to the new building we opened door after door!

Since then PopNAT data has added to our urgency by showing our local 65+ palliative population is likely to grow by around 200 people a year for the next 18 years, half of whom will be over 85. This is making it imperative we both start to work in different ways and increase points of access to support.

Our goal is to create a centre where preventative work slows deterioration and enhances wellness through self-care, with a side benefit of creating relationships which reduce fear of hospice care. Being on site with retail makes the project affordable by sharing rental and other costs. However, like other hospices, it is running costs which exhaust our fundraisers and so our proposed model keeps these manageable by engaging with other statutory and voluntary groups to share delivery of activity. As accessible buildings are at a premium in Barrow we have tapped into considerable local interest.

However we do not want to raise funds by renting out space but by working together and seeking grant funding together to create a centre with an impact larger than any of us individually. Our end vision is a site managed by a group of involved organisations and building users and underpinned by volunteers who support all activities rather than one individual organisation.

We have started this process by consulting the local population on future activities they would use. We have engaged with local statutory and voluntary partners and agreed it is timely to drop the word ‘hospice’; we are drafting that first timetable of activity.

The building will have rooms for complementary and talking therapy, groups, meetings, social activity, education and art. To date the collaboration involves groups supporting people living with a mix of conditions including specifically with: stroke, COPD, Parkinson’s Disease, MND, MS, Acquired Brain Injury, dementia and cancer, as well as their family carers.  We are all excited by the idea of a single resource which can be the focus of support for people living with illness.

Being on site with retail brings additional benefits. Our warehouse staff are immersed in the project and talk to shoppers and supporters about it. This led to the idea of a service run jointly by retail staff and family and bereavement volunteers offering bereavement support through a furniture upcycling workshop using donated goods which are then sold in the warehouse. A Hospice UK Freemason’s Grant underpins this new development in year 1. Within days of starting it has become evident the service is really popular and will be oversubscribed so we are already considering how to expand access.

During collaboration conversations the local Neuro Alliance pointed out the county’s lack of Changing Places toilets and we are now seeking a grant to install one on this site to be accessible during working hours to anyone in need. With Changing Places toilets few and far between in our rural area we believe this will be a real community resource.

Finding a building with such potential has offered us the opportunity to think outside the box and deliver something new. Obviously it is still early days. The work is just beginning and we have a long way to go. There are many things we do not know or do not have yet. But we have a vision. We have allies. And that feels good.

For more information visit St Mary’s Hospice