Ask Lily helps older people stay happy in their homes for longer
Ask Lily helps older people stay happy in their homes for longer

With populations living longer alongside tightening public sector budgets, the social care system that supports us as we get older is under increasing pressure.  But all too often older people feel they have no option but to move into residential care because they struggle to get the necessary support to remain at home. 

Given the choice, the vast majority of older people would opt to stay independent and in their own homes for as long as possible. However getting the right support to do so can be difficult, with systems complicated to navigate and disjointed.  This can cause a delay in access to appropriate and timely interventions which could help prevent acute problems by helping people to address low-level issues before they escalate.

But there are ways that councils can assist older people to access early intervention services to help them retain their dignity and independence for longer, improve their quality of life and cut the cost of care.

Making a difference

A pioneering initiative has been successfully rolled out across Kings Lynn and West Norfolk designed to help older people access the right level of support at the right time to help them lead active, healthy and independent lives.

With initial support from the East of England Local Government Association to scope the solution, the scheme - LILY (Living Independently in Later Years) - has been implemented by the Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk and West Norfolk’s Clinical Commissioning Group, under the banner of the West Norfolk Health Alliance.

By creating a collaborative and integrated approach to services, it enables individuals to access care in the community which helps them avoid events which could be detrimental to their health and expedite their journey into high cost care services.

It also acts as an information point for friends, family members and carers who can then support the older person in the right way.

How does it work?

LILY has been implemented in two phases.

The first phase was the creation of

– a one-stop online access point for information for older people and their families led by the Borough Council of Kings Lynn and West Norfolk.

Ask Lily brings together over 1000 services, activities and events – including information and advice on money matters, social activities, health, transport and more – for older people and those who support them, making it easy for people to find the contacts and information they need.

It also includes sections for a local What’s on guide, local news page, NHS Choices information and the site can be searched by category, key words or via the sites pre-populated quick links.

Over the next two years the Alliance is taking forward phase two of the programme – named LILY+ - and recently gained funding from Norfolk County Council’s Strong and Well fund.  Phase two is an exciting development of the programme which will take the offer of LILY into local communities within western Norfolk with the support of volunteer “LILY Ambassadors”.

With the anticipated increase in visits to the LILY site, intelligence gathered from the use of the website will identify patterns and areas of need. This data will be used to develop a more integrated approach to early intervention support to better address the specific needs of local people. It will help partners to identify service gaps and duplications, inform local commissioning and target support where necessary.

Why it matters

In West Norfolk, 23% of the population is over the age of 65 and a quarter of them live alone. Estimates suggest that these figures are set to rise significantly.

Within this population are a large cohort who aren’t yet accessing formal health and social care services and who with low-level care and support could retain their independence and live safely at home for longer. Without it they can quickly become vulnerable.

This means this project is hugely important – saving money as well as helping those individuals maintain their freedom, by empowering older people to access relevant information either at home or by visiting a self-serve or assisted self-serve LILY Community Point.

And it is already proving successful by having a measurable impact on the lives of older residents. Since the launch of

the site has received over 122,000 page visits and hosts over 1100 local entries from organisations, charities and groups.

LILY + also provides a platform for collaboration between different organisations and service providers and means problems can be identified quickly and solutions found through joined up working. In addition it allows front-line staff from different agencies to access a shared database to successfully signpost users to appropriate local services. This will make engagement with older people and carers more streamlined and means their needs are met faster and more effectively.

Independence is key

A study carried out in 2010 found that more people fear losing their independence in old age than death.

The research also found almost half of people feared moving into an aged care facility.

To make matters worse the government has previously warned the health care system was facing a “time bomb” due to Britain's ageing population with ministers claiming it poses as big a threat to the country as climate change.

But this need not be the case.

People want to maintain control over their lives for as long as they can – and projects like LILY can help this to happen.