good life, good death, good grief

Scottish Compassionate Communities Toolkit

Back Home Boxes

The Back Home Boxes initiative is part of Compassionate Inverclyde, and aims to support people who live alone as they return home from hospital. The boxes are gifted by a local business and are filled with community donations of essential food items. Volunteers organise collecting the contents from the local community and distributing the Back Home Boxes within the local hospital.

Why create Back Home Boxes?

The idea of Back Home Boxes grew from community discussions recognising how it must be terrible to come home from hospital alone and not even have a pint of milk with which to make a cup of tea.

Although not tied tightly to the original palliative and end of life care focus of Compassionate Inverclyde, “loneliness” was a source of suffering that the community wanted to do something about and that could be addressed through compassionate citizenship. The community felt that, like death and dying, loneliness is a cross-cutting concern that can impact upon people of all ages and from all walks of life.

Getting things up and running

The Programme Lead spoke to a contact at the local branch of Amazon, who was able to provide boxes free of charge. She then approached key contacts including the ambulance service, infection control, the hospital and nursing services, and brought those groups together with the same message: “This is a new idea, from the people, we’re in this together, at the very beginning – can we make it work”?

“People said you’ll never, ever get the ambulance service on board, not in a million years. They have to support people upstairs, sometimes with walking aids and bags. But I very nicely sat with the head of the service and said I know it’s a big ask, but I think we can make this work and it will make a big difference. What can we do? Let’s keep the weight manageable? Can we try it?”

Alison Bunce, Programme Lead

Who gets a box?

The Programme Lead had initially thought that the boxes would be for people over the age of 70, but group discussions led to a consensus agreement that boxes are important for anyone of any age going home alone.

What should go in the box?

The list of contents came from local people and their careful thinking in this respect and ongoing revisions have been critical. The boxes now include items such as tea, milk, bread and snacks allowing recipients to make a hot drink and light snack for the first few days on return home. They also include a get-well card made by local school children and other citizens, and a blanket knitted by local people. Finally they include a handmade kindness token and, as initiated by volunteers, and information about local services.

Other practicalities

Initially the back home box ‘store’ was located in the community, but space was later secured within the hospital, despite space being at a premium. This presence and the delivery of the boxes within the hospital has been invaluable in increasing the visibility of the volunteers with staff and visitors.

Who’s involved?

The initiative is brought about because of the co-operation and goodwill of an all kinds of partners; Amazon, the ambulance service, the nurses, infection control, the volunteers at the hospital, and local community members handing out leaflets, manning stalls outside supermarkets, visiting collection points, churches, shops, supermarkets, other local businesses and other organisations, knitting groups, brownies, guides, cubs, individuals donating tins of soup, Facebook, social media, school children decorating boxes and making welcome home cards, prisoners making kindness tokens.

Positive effects

The community feel that the Back Home Boxes initiative has improved working and community cohesion between people from different walks of life, including many who have been isolated in different ways. The growth has been likened to spinning a web of kindness, with this box in the middle; simply by asking: 'Who else can add to this box? What can individuals, groups and organisations do to help? What other talents do the people in our community have to share?'

“A big web has spun itself all around this one box – a web bringing together awhole host of people of all ages and from all walks of life, all having a can do attitude, all saying yes.”

Alison Bunce, Programme Lead

More information

Read more about Back Home Boxes here:

Text above adapted from: Compassionate Inverclyde VOICES: The Narrative from a Local Perspective. Picture credit: Compassionate Inverclyde Evaluation Summary Report

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