Engaging the Hard to Reach

Over thirty people from nineteen organisations recently attended a training session on ‘Engaging the Hard to Reach’ in NICVA as part of the Big Lottery Fund Reaching Out: Connecting Older People development and support programme.

The day began with looking at how we define the hard to reach and what are the characteristics of those who we see as hard to reach. Common themes discussed included: isolation, loneliness, lack of connections, lack of confidence, addictions, fear of the unknown, mental health problems, physical disabilities, and geographical isolation

The session continued with Elizabeth Hendron, PR and Publications Co-ordinator CEE, giving tips on how to get your message across more effectively. She posed questions such as: how to make your message relevant; are you getting your message out in the right places; who are you targeting your message to and what action you want them to take.  She also gave a brief overview of how the groups could use social media to promote their work and challenged everyone to write140 character tweets to sum up their project.

After lunch Tommy Carlin from Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum gave an presentation on research about to be published on an extensive survey carried out among older people in the Triax area of Derry. They went door to door in pairs (both staff and volunteers) and completed 830 questionnaires with older people. Key findings from the project have allowed them to target their work and projects include a pharmacy diagnosis service, a smoking cessation programme, and a garden project where window/garden boxes are distributed out to individuals in the community. They aim to provide services relevant to the people they interviewed and if the people are not able to come out of their homes, they will provide the service to them individually.

The session concluded with looking at a way forward and some practical strategies to improving engagement with the hard to reach. Key barriers identified were: transport; technology; lack of information; confidence /fear of the unknown; health issues; men. Some strategies that were suggested were: offering incentives such as food, go to where they are and using trusted intermediaries. The strategies identified on the day will be pulled together as a support resource and published on the RO:COP webpage very soon.

Comments from the day:

"Great day - feel really motivated again to raise awareness and get message out again. Thanks". – Lorraine, Belfast and Lisburn Women’s Aid

"This event will help me engage those that are harder to reach. It was great for networking and gave me great ideas on how to overcome some of the barriers affecting me reaching the older adults involved in the project." – Nichola, Down’s Syndrome Association

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