As we enter the final months of the project, the OCN team are working hard developing an opportunity to showcase our learning and try out our methods and resources. We are calling it our Neighbourhood Roadshow and will feature our Neighbourhood Action Plan. Our hope is that others will be inspired and find something useful for developing more connected communities for people living with dementia and unpaid carers. Examples of the resources will include a suggested route map, guidance, work sheets, hints and tips, and real-life examples and stories.
As part of our on-going series of blogs we thought it would be good to let you read about one of our stories. What follows is an example of our early environment audit work. It includes links to some useful resources. This story will be included, as a resource, in our final Neighbourhood Action Plan.
The story isn’t over, and we plan for the resources to continue to develop and to improve over time.
Phase two of the Our Connected Neighbourhoods (OCN) project, which began in autumn 2018, included an interim evaluation and a great deal of activity across all project areas including arts, community, digital, continued development of network partnerships, and an increasingly active environment strand.
Examples of work we covered under the environment strand included developing a ‘place and space’ resource toolkit, contributing to the development of the Scottish Government Place Standard Tool, and presentations to the International Making Place Conference. We also carried out 6 community and environment audits. These included: Sainsbury’s supermarket in Raploch Stirling; Allan Lodge care home in Bridge of Allan; William Simpson Care Home in Plean; King’s Park in Stirling; Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum, and its café.
Here we provide an overview of our Sainsbury’s Raploch citizen’s environment audit.
Involvement and inclusion are at the heart of the OCN approach. The Sainsbury’s supermarket citizen audit group was no exception. The group included a mix of local people living with dementia, or other age-related issues, and their unpaid carers. We connected with these participants in two ways:
- Firstly, through people we had connected with during our Getting to Know You surveys. These people were contacted through our partnership network.
- Secondly, through our volunteers. These participants were related to one of our volunteers or neighbours of their family.
The audits were supported by OCN volunteers Richard Kilborn, Jan Newell, Angelica Setterington and Sophie Davis, who all took on the role of interviewer or observer, whilst OCN staff members Dave Budd – Integration and Inclusion Coordinator – and Dr Martin Quirke -Architect – from the University of Stirling, provided additional facilitation & support.
The evaluations were completed by using two audit tools:
- Health Scotland’s Place Standard Tool. This tool considered the broad local neighbourhood of Raploch, Stirling, covering participant views on issues such as greenspace, transport, and housing. It also captured some focussed comments on the physical outdoor environment close to Sainsbury’s supermarket.
- The Public Indoor Environments Tool (PDF). This tool captured experiences of the supermarket’s indoor environment, including the available services and facilities.
Sainsbury’s, like many supermarkets, offers the use of its facilities as part of their efforts to support community groups and activities. Initially, it was intended that the citizen audit group would meet in the training room within the Sainsbury’s building. They planned to use this room for introductions and briefing at the beginning, then take an audit walk round the store, and meet once again in the meeting room to discuss their experiences. However, we were informed the day before the audit that the room had been double booked by mistake. Rather than cancel or postpone the audit, we decided to turn a challenge into an opportunity. Because participants had already kindly agreed to meet, we agreed with the store to meet in the café area instead. This proved to be a positive move as it gave the group an opportunity to observe people living with dementia and unpaid carers navigating their way to the building’s upper floor public area, and their experience using the café over a good time period.
We followed some simple steps in delivering the audit session:
- We made sure participants were well informed before, during, and after; using communication methods that suited each individual.
- We had a high ratio of team members to participants; ensuring that we provided excellent support.
- We split the larger group into two smaller groups; each one finding a quiet corner of the café.
- Volunteers and staff took time to make sure the participants remained comfortable and at ease; engaging in relaxed conversation and providing refreshments and snacks.
- We responded flexibly. Even though we had an idea of how the session would run, we adapted to what the group thought would be most manageable and useful to them.
- When the participants were comfortable, each group had one volunteer asking questions and one volunteer observing to record and write up feedback of the audit session.
During the introductions and briefing, the group felt a walk about wasn’t necessary. Several participants were regular customers of the store. Most also felt that their experience of navigating to the building on the day, then to the upper floor café, and using the toilets and other facilities when needed, meant they felt familiar enough to sit and discuss with the prompt questions contained in the two audit tools. One family felt, due to their partner’s dementia and using a wheelchair, they would be more comfortable sitting with a view over the store and not doing a physical audit tour. To commence the session, we:
- Provided an overview of each tool, explaining what each one would cover and the estimated length of time they would take. We also offered a choice of which tool the participants might like to complete first.
- Explained that we were interested in their experiences and thoughts about the environment, but that we would also value any feedback they could offer about the audit exercise and the usability of the tools themselves. We would use their responses to improve the tools and how we undertook future group audits of other environments in the area.
Feedback was overwhelmingly positive with all participants indicating their overall enjoyment and appreciation of the store. Particular praise was given to the high-quality customer services provided by staff and physical amenities available at Sainsbury’s. It was felt that the dementia friendly training provided by Alzheimer’s Scotland to the store’s staff, was a contributory factor in this. Staff were patient, personable and made participants feel reassured and welcome.
Participants felt that, because many of the staff are older people, with many coming from the local Raploch area, this enhanced the feeling of familiarity, understanding and comfort that they provided in their customer service.
Despite the overall positive feedback, the participants highlighted some areas where they thought there was room for improvement. These included:
- For people without access to a ‘Blue Badge’, standard car parking spaces in the car park were too small and narrow, making it difficult to get in and out of a vehicle.
- Some participants find it tiring when walking up and down the aisles, and suggested that occasional seating would help; ideally near to the checkouts.
- Some shopping aisles were too narrow, particularly for wheelchair users.
- The position of the ground floor toilets, close to the main entrance, was a good idea. However, directional signs were not as clear as they could be. A sign close to the main entrance would be helpful.
- Signage around the store was placed too high and the lettering not large enough.
- The store announcements over speakers were too sudden and loud, often startling some members of the group. A softer introductory sound prior to announcements would help. On occasions, announcements were persistent over a short period of time. It would help for announcements to be ‘batched’ in some way.
- The signage guiding people to the upper floor toilets (in the café area) was very confusing and could be improved.
- Foot access to the store site, for those living nearby, was especially challenging. Additional traffic calming measures, to slow vehicles down, was suggested. The period allowed at the pedestrian crossings are also too short for those with mobility issues. Whilst probably beyond Sainsbury’s control, discussions about this with the local authority might help, and would be appreciated.
- The main pedestrian ramp exiting onto Drip Road was considered dangerous in winter; especially when pushing a wheelchair or walking with a stick. Anti-slip surfacing and regular gritting in cold weather would help. In addition, what appeared to be a semi-permanent puddle towards the bottom of the ramp also created challenges.
Once the citizen audit session had ended and the participants had left, Dr Martin Quirke and Dave Budd spoke to the store manager. They summarised initial verbal feedback from the group and agreed to put the full findings in writing. The store manager wished to pass on thanks to the group for their feedback, and committed to responding once the written feedback was received.
Dr Martin Quirke sent a letter to the Store Manager outlining the results of the audit. The store manager subsequently responded with the positive news that a number of ‘quick wins’ from the groups suggesting improvements were being considered. These included changes to the announcement system and reduction in noise levels within the café area. The remaining findings and suggestions were shared with Sainsbury’s Head Office so that further improvements may be considered for implementation across more stores in the medium to longer term.
Following this news, we contacted the participants by phone or in person to update them on the outcomes and how valuable their feedback had been.