Wise old owls are being encouraged to sign up as volunteers for two innovative new projects.
Money Owls and Housing Owls are expected to take flight across the Falkirk Council area over the next month or two, advising the elderly where to turn if they are experiencing financial issues or problems with their homes.
The projects, which have secured enough funding to run for 12 months initially, will be manned entirely by volunteers who will offer peer support at pop-up events across the district.
Scottish charity Outside The Box is co-ordinating the event, with community development adviser Ania Sandland overseeing it locally.
She said: “Money Owls is a peer support project for older people around money.
“It’s older people talking to other older people about money issues.
“These problems were identified about 18 months ago when we were working with families in Falkirk on another project.
“It became clear that older people sometimes didn’t know where to turn for information or were embarrassed to talk about it.
“But we found out that, a lot of the time. the things they were worried about were easy to solve.
“We were working with the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) in Grangemouth and set up Money Owls in January after funding was granted from the Bank of Scotland.
“At the same time, we were working with housing department staff at Falkirk Council who were impressed with information leaflets we had produced for older people.
“Again there is a lot of questions around housing like should people stay or move, should they reduce the amount of furniture they have to make it safer, that kind of thing.
“We managed to get funding from Falkirk’s health and social care partnership for Housing Owls which is very much a similar thing: talking to someone and finding out what support is available.”
Outside The Box started in 2004 and has been involved with 500 groups and individuals across Scotland, supporting various projects.
Its aim is give community groups the tools to improve what matters most to them.
The charity has been involved in several projects in Falkirk, including Wisdom in Practice and Falkirk Moving Assist.
Now hopes are high for the two new information-based projects.
Ania said: “It is all provided by volunteers who will be trained by the CAB, Falkirk Council’s housing department and ourselves.
“What’s important is that no financial advice is given by the volunteers. They will not discuss personal financial details or go into great depth.
“It will be about pointing people to the agencies that can help them. Basically it’s a stop in between the issue and the advice. It’s all about letting people know where they can turn.
“We will be holding pop-up events in places where older people are likely to be – cafes, community centres, social places.
“We are also interested in holding the pop up events regularly in the same places so people know where we are.
“For example if someone wants to find out about insurance comparisons or is not aware they can save money, we can show them how it works and invite them to have a think about it and come back next month.”
The pop-up events could start as early as May, once volunteers are recruited.
“That’s what we are doing now,” said Ania.
“We are looking to recruit people who are maybe over 50, friendly and approachable and who like chatting and helping other people.
“We are not looking for people with special financial experience and housing knowledge because the volunteers will be signposting people to help agencies – not giving the advice themselves. That’s very important to stress.
“We don’t want people sitting at home worrying about something that can be fixed. We want people to know everyone is facing the same kind of issues and that help is available.”
Ania added: “This is a very innovative project; no-one else is doing this.
“There are other areas watching Falkirk to see how it goes and then similar projects could be created Scotland-wide.”
Anyone interested in volunteering should email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 07514 905945.