Journeying towards a Compassionate Community

My name is Alison Bunce, I am very proud to be a nurse and in
2019 became a Queen’s Nurse. I have been nursing for 40yrs,
spending most of my career in Palliative Care. I was given the
opportunity in January 2016 to lead a programme called
Compassionate Inverclyde. At that time, I was the Director of
Care at Ardgowan Hospice and had been in that role for 9
years so this was a big change. Initially I was seconded for 3
years however due to the success of the programme my post
became substantive In January 2019 and I have been in post

Compassionate Inverclyde

Compassionate Inverclyde has developed into an award-winning and inspirational social
movement which has been supported by Ardgowan Hospice and the Health and Social Care
Partnership (HSCP). An independent evaluation described how it helps transform attitudes
and everyday practices around loneliness, social isolation, death, and bereavement across Inverclyde.

Our ethos is fundamentally about local people working alongside existing formal services enabling ordinary people to do extraordinary things for ordinary people, tapping into our desire to be kind, helpful and neighbourly. Relationships are at the centre, as are shared values that enhance community, relational and individual wellbeing. Ordinary people are part of a dynamic, growing and self-organising social movement of fundraisers, volunteers, befrienders, companions, community cafes, compassionate schools, businesses, and neighbourhoods. These are some of the strands we developed together:

  1. No One Dies Alone: Trains and supports compassionate citizens as companions for people and families in the last hours of life.
  2. High Five Programme: A programme aimed at all sections of the community focusing on the five ways to wellbeing, helping people to understand how they can be kind to self and to others.
  3. Back Home Boxes: Supporting people who live alone as they return from hospital.
  4. Back Home Visitors: A volunteer visitor and a young person will visit an older person who lives alone and is socially isolated.
  5. Bereavement Café and Support Hub: The development of a meeting place for volunteers and a friendly haven for anyone in the community who is experiencing loneliness, loss, crisis, or bereavement.
  6. New Mum Companions: A new mum companion will visit a mum who has just had a new baby and help her relax and gain confidence to feed and bond with her baby.

In 2020, I supported IFIC Scotland’s Compassionate Communities Active Learning Programme: Bringing together volunteers, leaders, practitioners and managers from health, social care and third sector organisations across Scotland with an interest in “Compassionate Communities.” The report of the first cohort can be found here.

Inverclyde Cares

I have recently been seconded to CVS Inverclyde, the local Third Sector interface, to lead on a new piece of work called Inverclyde Cares.

Inverclyde HSCPs Strategic Plan 2019-2024 outlines 6 Big Actions that will contribute to improved outcomes for the people of Inverclyde. The overarching ambition is “improving lives” with a vision to ensure that Inverclyde is “a caring, compassionate community working
together to address inequalities and assist everyone to live active, healthy and fulfilling

To help realise this vision and ambition, a range of community led initiatives, including Compassionate Inverclyde, are coming together as Inverclyde Cares. This new programme, is being led by CVS Inverclyde in collaboration with Inverclyde Council, Inverclyde HSCP, Ardgowan Hospice and, most importantly, the citizens of Inverclyde.

Inverclyde Cares will continue the community development approach successfully adopted by Compassionate Inverclyde. This means partners will continue to listen to what matters to local people and will develop and test new ideas with people and communities, so that no one is left behind. It will support all businesses, organisations and neighbourhood groups to continue to work together and build on the strength of Inverclyde’s people and communities.

Inverclyde Cares will publicly encourage, facilitate, support and celebrate caring for one another during life’s most testing moments and experiences. The programme will explore ways to improve life experience and opportunities for all in these difficult times through kindness, neighbourliness and access to early help, support and recovery. Workstreams will connect people with specific circumstances and at different life stages across Inverclyde and will amplify our collective actions to ‘’assist everyone to live active, healthy and fulfilling lives”.

I love the freedom to be able to let ideas and thoughts develop in a way that is without frameworks.

My work leading Compassionate Inverclyde is exactly like that. There is no prescription, it evolves daily, naturally following its own path, listening to the ideas of a community and letting that grass root thinking emerge.

It gives me energy and feeds my soul. I am truly grateful to be immersed in a job which fits me like a glove.

It does not feel like work – it feels wonderful to be working with the community to empower ordinary people to do extraordinary things.