If North Yorkshire’s innovative Living Well programme had an advertising slogan it could well duplicate a popular paint brand with ‘it does what it says on the tin’.

Since the ground-breaking service was launched six years ago, it has helped an astonishing 14,000 residents to live their lives well and – in many cases – deflected them from needing more intensive help from support services.

That has proved a benefit to both those who have been able to enjoy an extended independent lifestyle and the public services that could otherwise have needed to take their care on board.

At its launch in 2015, Living Well used an untried system of using locally based co-ordinators to work with those needing assistance to steer them towards organisations and services that could help.

In the years since the scheme has evolved and expanded, with increasing numbers of North Yorkshire residents benefitting from its support and expertise.

When the service was launched, it had a team of around 20 co-ordinators, though that has now doubled. In the first year, about 1,000 people were helped, but numbers have grown, with around 4,000 getting help in the 12 months before the pandemic.

The service became predominantly digital during lockdown, but continued to offer support and assist those unfamiliar with online skills to fulfil more of their routine tasks via the internet.

Cath Simms, North Yorkshire’s Head of Prevention Services, said: “Living Well was set up to work with people early – to help improve their health, wellbeing and independence and help them to be as resilient as possible. The aim was to work with them as individuals and focus on what was important to them.

“One of the major problems Living Well was intended to tackle was loneliness and social isolation, so we help connect people to activities and groups in their communities, from small ‘knit and natter’ groups to larger and more formal social organisations. It has been found that long-term loneliness is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”

Former Methodist minister’s Living Well job ‘fits like a glove’

Mark Haynes found the work so satisfying after he joined Living Well during a break from his role as a Methodist minister that he decided to make it his permanent career.

He is one of the team of co-ordinators, the staff who work with residents to find answers to their problems and help them achieve independent and fulfilling lifestyles.

Mark applied on instinct after seeing the job advertised during what he assumed would be a break from his role in religion. But after training he realised the job was a natural move.

“I felt it just fitted me like a hand in a glove,” he said. “Some of the skills I had used previously transferred across; an interest in people and particularly people with vulnerabilities. I realised I wanted to do it for the rest of my working life.”

The impact Living Well can have is the principal reason for Mark’s decision.

“A very, very small difference in someone’s life can make a profound impact on someone’s life,” he said. “Part of the genius of Living Well is that we have time to spend with people and all sorts of things can unravel, which were not apparent when the referral was made.”

Mark now works in Ryedale, where he lives and still conducts occasional Methodist services, but has dedicated his working life to Living Well.

Mark Haynes

Living Well steps in to help after woman’s fall

Recruiting a domestic cleaner would normally be a routine task, but complications caused by the Covid-19 pandemic meant Muriel Blythman struggled to find the help she needed after a fall left her with mobility problems.

She received help from us and as a result was put in touch with the Living Well team.

When she explained her difficulties, caused by an arthritis-related fall that left her struggling to walk, her co-ordinator Fiona Ellin helped to find a cleaner who was available. Muriel, who lives in Arrathorne, said that had been a transformation.

“I cannot speak too highly of Living Well,” she said, “I am an independent person but there is a time when we all need that help.

“Fiona came and asked if there was anything Living Well could do and I had been trying to get some help with cleaning the house. I had tried some places, but they were not taking anyone on until after the pandemic, but Fiona was able to offer me a list.”

Muriel contacted one, who accepted the work and that has made a remarkable difference to her wellbeing.

“She is an absolute treasure, she has turned my world around,” said Muriel.