Working for innovations in informal care and voluntary assistance

Tuesday, October 3, 2017 - Published by Ragni Leifson
Using new technology, In for Care will explore ways to improve voluntary assistance and informal care for young and old residents of the North Sea Region.

Society is changing. Not only is the number of elderly increasing, we are also living longer, with new needs and expectations to what kind of support we should be offered.

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”Politicians in both Norway and Europe will engage more volunteers and relatives, especially in the Health and Care field. There is definitely a need for increased voluntary effort, and this project will make it easier for volunteers to contribute,” says associate professor Elin Thygesen at the Department of Health and Nursing Science at the University of Agder (UiA).

In For Care has received support from The Interreg North Sea Region programme, EU’s programme to encourage social and economical integration across borders through regional cooperation. In For Care is an international cooperation between Norway, Scotland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, and Belgium. The project starts with mapping voluntary work and already existing tools in the different countries.

Interreg covers 50 per cent of the budget of 4.5 million Euros, the rest is covered by individual efforts from partners.

Veslemøy Rabe, manager at the Faculty of Health and Sport Sciences (left), associate professor Elin Thygesen at the Department of Health and Nursing Science, and project leader Ragni Macqueen Leifson at the Centre for E-health and Care Technology. (Photo: Walter Wehus)

Exploring local solutions

Through cooperation with municipalities in Norway, The Netherlands, Sweden and Belgium, In For Care will explore technological solutions that can improve interaction between health and social services and volunteers. The company Frameworks will develop the technology in the project.

”One of our first tasks is to map which tools that already exist, and what is needed to make the process simpler. For example, the municipalities in Norway tell us that they have long lists with volunteers, but that it is difficult to systemize them,” says project leader Ragni Macqueen Leifson at the Centre for E-health and Care Technology.

In for Care aims to stimulate the innovative culture in public services and thereby help to deliver performance improvements through the greater coordination, engagement and recognition of voluntary sector and informal care. The project will develop smart technological solutions to improve the support on informal caregivers and voluntary workers, with the living labs of several of the partners used for testing and validating tools and apps with end users in real life situations.

A challenge to match the volunteers

”There is a great need and potential to use society’s collective resources to maintain and develop a good welfare society: the resources that lies with the users themselves, their families and social networks, in the local community and in the local society,” states the Norwegian Government’s national strategy for volunteer work in the health and care field from 2015 to 2020. (PDF in Norwegian)

Examples of voluntary efforts within the health and care field are visitation services, walking groups, cultural activities, drug preventive work, mealtime communities and cooking courses, information work and end of life care.

”There are many websites that are good at matching romantic partners, but it is also important to match volunteers to those in need. We will find a digital meeting point between the elderly and the young, relatives or volunteers,” says Leifson.

The Netherlands is among the countries in the world with the highest number of voluntary working hours relative to population. And volunteering is not only positive for the community – it can also make people happier.

In For Care is a cooperation between the University of Agder, Abertay University (Scotland), Knutpunkt Sørlandet, CMO STAMM Groningen Drenthe, Provincie Drenthe, the County Administrative Board of Värmland, University College Syddanmark, Stad Turhout, Stad Aast and the County Council of Värmland.

Originally published at uia.no.