Launching the first IMPACT Demonstrator project at Stormont

On Wednesday 17 January, IMPACT, together with IMPACTAgewell®, part of the Mid & East Antrim Agewell Partnership, launched the findings from the asset-based approaches Demonstrator project at Stormont, Northern Ireland’s Parliament. The event was hosted and sponsored by Paul Frew MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly), together with Colm Gildernew MLA, Kate Nicholl MLA and Claire Sugden MLA. It took place in Stormont’s Long Gallery on a day when there was a vote for Assembly speaker, in an attempt to resurrect the Assembly following its collapse in early 2022.

The object of the Long Gallery event was to spread awareness and learning from the IMPACT’s Demonstrator project, in order to improve the quality of social care for older adults in Northern Ireland and beyond. With the onset soon of the Integrated Care System across Northern Ireland, we hope that this project can influence its structure and effectiveness, learning lessons from where things have worked well. IMPACT’s Demonstrator partner, IMPACTAgewell® is the first Northern Ireland demonstrator partner of IMPACT, a UK-wide programme led by the University of Birmingham. IMPACT aims to embed improved social care practice across the UK and learn lessons from best practice, such as that achieved by IMPACTAgewell®.

Paul Frew introduced the event, discussing the vital role of the voluntary and community sector in the landscape of social care in Northern Ireland, and that projects like IMPACTAgewell® were particularly vital in the wake of the COVID19 pandemic.

Professor Robin Miller, from the University of Birmingham, introduced the project and spoke about how social care is more than just services, but about the wellbeing of much-loved communities. Robin spoke about how a good model of health and social care shouldn’t be one that responds to crises, but one that builds on the strength of local people and projects. Sarah McLaughlin, from IMPACTAgewell®,  took to the podium and spoke about how this could be done, noting, “We start with the older person”. Sarah spoke about how a person-centred approach kept people out of hospital and helped build relationships within communities, which in turn, built confidence and resilience. She also spoke too about how independent evaluations of IMPACTAgewell® showed significant cost savings through the decline in the need for GP appointments and emergency admissions, amongst other things.

Professor Deidre Heenan of Ulster University took to the podium to passionately advocate for the parity of esteem between the voluntary and community sector and the rest of health and social care, saying that people who work in the voluntary and community sector are not “bit actors” but actually keep the system afloat. Deidre also expressed her frustration at pilots that demonstrated great effectiveness and value often being discontinued. 

In the audience were a range of MLAs from all parties, as well as people with lived experience, senior councillors and senior management in the health and social care sector. We hope that events like these help people to understand more about how IMPACTAgewell® operates and why it has achieved such effective outcomes.