A home from home: the big idea that is transforming social care

5th July 2018



The Filo Project is an innovative care provider that’s reimagining how people with dementia are supported in later life.

Covering Devon and Somerset, they provide day care for local people with dementia in the community. Unlike traditional care providers, the Filo Project care is made possible thanks to ‘hosts’. Hosts are employees, not volunteers who collect each client from the client’s home, and then take them back to the host’s own home, where they spend the day. The host cooks a hot lunch and each client is taken home by the host at the end of the session.

Co-founded by Dr Liz Dennis and Libby Price,  The Filo Project was backed by Transform Ageing, a programme that aims to revolutionise the approach to health, wellbeing and social care for people in later life, starting in the south-west of England.

Transform Ageing is funded by Big Lottery and run in partnership with the Design Council, the South West Academic Health Science Network and the Centre for Ageing Better.

The Filo Project sessions are designed to be engaging and accessible. “Apart from lunch, there is no pre-defined structure”, says Liz Dennis, “we liken our sessions to spending a day with friends, everyone can hear and engage with the others, no one gets left out and the service is very much bespoke to the preferences, personalities and needs of each of the group members.”

That focus on meaningful social interaction is vital. Many of the people with whom The Filo Project work are low on confidence or have become socially isolated.

Client at Transform Ageing award winner the Filo Project Photography c/o The Filo Project and Hannah Maule-ffinch

Doing things differently

Between them Libby and Liz had the professional and academic experience to make their model work. They were inspired to do things differently and to provide better care.

According to Liz, “Day care for our client group wasn’t good enough, and frankly the traditional large group setting offered a ‘bare minimum’ standard”.

Photography c/o The Filo Project and Hannah Maule-ffinch

They knew that small groups benefited people with early to moderate dementia, allowing people to flourish and experience elements of recovery. That’s why in the Filo Project care is provided in small groups - typically around four people per group. Clients also attend regularly, at least once a week (sometimes more). This helps build trust and a relationship between the client and host, as well as adding a sense of stability and security thanks to the familiar people and places.

The model was also born out of necessity. Day care provision is sparse across Devon, Dorset and Somerset and its population, particular those later in life, often live in rural areas. Providing transport through the hosts means their service can reach into areas that can be difficult to access.

A new approach

This is day care with dignity. It recognises that clients are vibrant individuals who implicitly know what is needed to improve their own wellbeing, they just require the right support to access it.

Activities in and of themselves are not necessarily part of the Filo day. Indeed, Liz feels the word ‘activities’ is condescending to clients and denies them dignity. The idea behind the Filo Project is that it’s closer to a day with friends, it’s about socialising and enjoying company.

People in later life at one of Filo Projects sessions, recently backed by Transform AgeingPhotography c/o The Filo Project and Hannah Maule-ffinch

“Some groups do like to do ‘activities’ but others prefer to indulge in and enjoy the gentle socialisation occuring within a manageable and familiar framework.”, says Liz, “It may be that some will people want to peel vegetables, lay the table for lunch, maybe wash up, maybe read the paper, listen to music, maybe none of theses, maybe just enjoy being in company.”

This approach is designed to create supportive and friendly environments in which people can flourish while tackling issues of loneliness and isolation, which are associated with higher blood pressure, depression and higher rates of mortality.

To make the service work the hosts play a vital role. “Our clients have lead rich and interesting lives and the job of a host is to facilitate socialising by harnessing the capacities and experiences of clients, the consequence of which is improved confidence and well-being.”

So who are these hosts? The Filo Project employs a group of hosts ranging in age and care experience (interestingly professional care experience is not required, though training is provided). This means the hosts have a wide range of backgrounds and an open mind when it comes to care. 

What difference have they made?

Starting in 2014 with two groups a week, they have since grown to the extent that they now run 55 groups across Devon, Torbay and west Dorset. That means they support around 170 people in later life each month.

The personal testimonials speak to the tangible difference they make to individuals’ lives. Here’s what one family member had to say:

“The impact on my mum of the unique support that The Filo Project offers has been incredible. Although mum is a hugely sociable, people-loving person, she can really struggle in group situations with strangers, feeling isolated and disengaged. The Filo's nurturing approach with an intimate circle of regular companions is perfect for her; she's really come out of her shell and you can see her old fun-loving self coming back.”

Tackling the stigma

The two founders weren’t content with helping people with dementia live fuller and more content lives. They wanted to challenge the negative perceptions around dementia and ageing more generally. To do this they turned creative and are holding a touring photography exhibition.

Two clients enjoy socialising at care provider and Transform Ageing award winner the Filo ProjectPhotography c/o The Filo Project and Hannah Maule-ffinch

“Beautiful photos of younger people abound, but rarely does one see beautiful photos of older people ”, says Liz. They commissioned Hannah Maule-ffinch to capture  dignified, authentic shots of people in later life who happened to have dementia.

The exhibition is also an opportunity for the impact of The Filo Project to be discussed more widely and, additionally, contribute to the debate surrounding the importance of having social care that is meaningfully sociable for the people involved.

To Liz and Libby the Filo Project has one clear purpose. “For people with dementia, the world can be increasingly incomprehensible and challenging, and the service we provide goes some way to alleviate this.”

Hide this Message

To provide you with the best browsing experience, this site uses cookies. By continuing to use the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.