Older People Living with Cancer

Peer advocates supporting older people affected by cancer

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5 benefits of using one-page profiles with volunteers

Helen Sanderson of Helen Sanderson Associates, project Strategic Partner tells us about a recent meeting of project delivery partners.

Last month I met with a room full of managers, who lead voluntary organisations supporting older people living with cancer. My brief was to explore the potential benefits of one-page profiles for the volunteers. I think that the best way to learn about one-page profiles is to do your own, so that is what we did. Working in pairs, using the ‘FINK’ questions, people developed their own one-page profiles.

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Back row, L-R: Naomi Karslake, Keri Harrison, Pat McCarthy, Ben Sansum, Phil Vining, Karen Pierce Front row, L-R: Janet Cullingford, Marie McWilliams, Juanita Williams, Helen Sanderson, Dave Bradshaw

 How can one-page profiles be useful for volunteers? This is what we thought about together, here are the five potential benefits of using one-page profiles with volunteers:

1) Knowing what matters to the volunteer makes it easier to match them to the older person.

A one-page profile has a section describing what matters to the volunteer, what is important to them. You may learn about family and friends, hobbies, passions and interests. My friend Gill is passionate about football, and loves dogs.  She has a fluffy cocker-poo. Gill would be great to match with someone who also loves sports and animals, and they would instantly something to talk about, to start their relationship.

 2) It can help to build relationships quickly

Having shared interests and knowing more about the volunteer will make it easier for the older person experiencing cancer to develop a connection and a relationship. We joke that a one-page profile is like spending three nights in the pub with someone! The volunteers for this work with OPAAL will also have personal experience of cancer. Having a one-page profile demonstrates that they are more than their cancer experience, and they are not defined by it.

3) The manager knows how to support the volunteer

The last section of a one-page profile is how to support me as a volunteer. The Golden Rule – treat people as you would want to be treated – does not apply here. Yes, you want everyone to be treated with kindness and respect, but we also need to learn the very specific and individual ways that people want support.

If you want to contact me about something, the best way to do that is by email or text. If you want to contact my colleague Michelle, her preference would always be that you phoned her. We need to learn the best ways to communicate and support each others, and recognize difference. By treating volunteers in this individual way, they are are more likely to feel valued and supported and therefore stay longer.

 4) It helps the volunteers connect with each other

We have just had two new people join our team. We work acorss the country, so our new interns, Ross and Heather, will mostly connect with other team members over the phone and by email. It can be hard to quickly build trusting relationships when people are not based together or sharing an office. We try and help by having a ‘meet the team’ book in our office, which has all of our one-page profiles in it.  If volunteers had this information available about each other, even in they did not spend a lot of time actually in an office together, it helps people feel connected.

5) It helps the volunteer feel valued, as a person.

Taking time to talk and learn about what matters to the volunteer and how to support them well, will make new volunteers feel welcomed and valued.

 The managers were concerned about the amount of time it could take to develop a one-page profile. So my next task, as part of the OPAAL work, is to map the ‘volunteer journey’ from hearing about the organization, right through to induction, and see how we can ‘grow’ a one-page profile naturally.

Whilst I was finishing this blog I had a tweet from one of the managers at Knowsley Pensioners Advocacy and Information Service, It said

“The introduction to one-page profiles went really well, got everyone talking and will be a work in progress as we go forward!”


We will share our work in progress as we go.


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Expanded Cancer, Older People and Advocacy project gets under way tomorrow

Following our Silver Dreams Flagship award from BIG Lottery and additional funding support from Macmillan Cancer Support our newly expanded project gets under way officially from tomorrow.

In this video Kath Parson, Chief Executive of OPAAL, talks about the launch of our Flagship project. A number of new delivery and strategic partners will be joining partners from the original pilot project to expand our support for older people affected by cancer to a number of new locations. We’ll give more details on partners from tomorrow.

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Why is our project so special?

Andrew Booth, Chair of OPAAL, the Older People’s Advocacy Alliance, project managers of the Cancer, Older People and Advocacy project, explains just why our project is so special.


We did it! £1,000,000 Landmark award for older people’s cancer advocacy services.

The OPAAL – Macmillan Cancer Support Partnership is thrilled to announce an additional investment of £1,000,000 by the Big Lottery’s Silver Dreams programme in Association with the Daily Mail to their Cancer Older People and Advocacy Programme – COPA.


During the last two years OPAAL and Macmillan Cancer Support have worked hard to make sure that over 170 older people are supported and enabled to exercise their rights, express their views, explore and make informed choices about their treatment and care.

The Flagship £1 million over the next three years will ensure we are able to extend our service to reach many more older people across England adding Bristol, Sandwell, Knowsley, Oxfordshire and Lancashire to pilot services in Sefton, Staffordshire and Dorset. Together over the next three years our new services will add over 300 new volunteers supporting over 1,000 older people affected by cancer to our national cancer support programme. So successful is our pilot three original partners secured three years continuation funding to expand their work in Dorset and Staffordshire.

This is a huge boost for OPAAL and we are deeply indebted to Macmillan Cancer Support who provided this funding as our new delivery partners will receive expert coaching and advice from these partners to get their new services off to a flying start. They will be the first to benefit from all the learning generated by our pilot.

Jagtar Dhanda, Head of Inclusion, Macmillan Cancer Support said: “We’re extremely proud of what this partnership has achieved. Securing this funding is a validation of how important this work is. This funding will ensure that the project goes from strength to strength, by reaching an even greater number of older people affected by cancer. It’s also a reflection of how partnerships can truly make a tangible difference.”

 More than one in three of us will get cancer, and for most of us it will be the toughest fight we ever face. People living with cancer are starting down a journey into the unknown. Attempting to navigate a complex system whilst making speedy decisions about treatment choices and rights, the experience of accessing health and social care services can be confusing, isolating and frightening. Older patients and carers often experience a loss of choice and control.

Since July 2012 with the Silver Dreams Pilot fund and additional funds from Macmillan we supported over 170 older people affected by cancer across Dorset, Stoke on Trent, Gateshead and Southport. We recruited and trained older people who themselves have been touched by cancer, to provide advocacy support to their peers. Since then OPAAL and Macmillan Cancer Support have proved that for some older people, particularly those who have no one else to speak for them, having an advocate can be a real life-saver.

Consider the statements below from just a handful of those we’ve helped speaking about the volunteer advocates who supported them:-

Ron ‘I will not have to go to another appointment alone’

Alec ‘Janet and I are now making plans for when I’m gone’

David ‘I still don’t think I’d be here if I didn’t have your support’

Elaine ‘When you say you are going to be there for me I know you will be’

 These people along with 173 other older people we’ve supported faced emotional trauma, anger, isolation, and the complete disorientation experienced by so many upon hearing a cancer diagnosis. They revealed real worries concerning caring responsibilities for loved ones, how to cope with the after effects of surgery, how to tell family members, find suitable accommodation, secure benefits, sort out debt, speak with health professionals to agree treatment and care and for the terminally ill how to plan for the end of life. These are just a handful of the issues faced by the older people we’ve helped.

Our deeply committed 62 Local and National Cancer Champions have done an amazing job promoting advocacy services and supporting our amazing 56 Volunteer Advocates. All advocates took time to build that all important trusting relationship enabling older people to confide worries and concerns. Our advocates, all of whom have experienced cancer themselves, understand the impact of a cancer diagnosis on the individual and are able to address worries and concerns with skill and sensitivity.  We are indebted to them and the staff and champions who supported them.

Older Volunteer Advocates also gain a great deal from their advocacy work. They told us:-

 “It’s working directly with older people affected by cancer that’s the best part of volunteering. I can see first-hand how cancer advocacy is improving the lives of individual older people affected by cancer who might otherwise not have been supported. It’s that which makes it all worthwhile.”

“As a volunteer advocate I was asked to be a cancer champion representative at national meetings alongside other project partners under the leadership of OPAAL. As well as opportunities to share good practice these meetings established the National Cancer Champions Board and agreed terms of reference, project plans and evaluation methodology and also supported applications to further develop and expand the cancer advocacy service. It’s great to think that I can feed in ideas and suggestions that  directly influence national service delivery and I can take back ideas to consider locally.

I am thrilled that we are able to extend our work to more and more older people up and down the country. When older people hear of our services the first question is often ‘Why don’t we have an advocacy service like this?” now thanks to the Flagship Silver Dreams Fund and the continued support of Macmillan Cancer Support we can offer more older people the support and help they need.

We believe we have gone some way to proving that together we can support older people affected by cancer in real and meaningful ways to improve their understanding and management of the impact of cancer and also help them achieve lasting change and improvement in their every day lives.

That we have enjoyed this level of success is entirely down to the dedication and commitment of ALL our partners. We will continue to work with our eight strategic partners, six new Resource and Development Partners and our Local and National Cancer Champions. We will also create a new Health Professionals Board to help us work more closely with our health colleagues. Together we number 23 organisations plus many more represented on local and national cancer champions boards, over the next few weeks we will feature articles on the role of each of these partners supporting our project. I’d like to thank them all for their continued support, we simply would not be doing this work were it not for you.


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Exploring local partnership working

Volunteer advocates need to keep up to date with local services in order to be able to appropriately signpost their partners to additional sources of support.

Claire Tuckett, Volunteer Development Manager at Wessex Cancer Trust, presented to staff and volunteers of Dorset Cancer Advocacy on the range of services they provide which include cancer information, counselling and complementary therapies, patient grants and transport, as well as holiday homes in the New Forest and Weymouth for patients and their families to have a low cost break by the sea.

Claire Tuckett and Keri Harrison

Claire Tuckett and Keri Harrison

Claire then met with Keri Harrison, Community and Advocacy Services Manager at Help and Care, to discuss the Trust’s plans in the Dorset area and explore possible partnership working with Dorset Cancer Advocacy.