Diversity & Equality in Health and Care Open Access

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Supporting the independence and wellbeing of adults through a universal service: diversity, difference and proportionate universalism

Alastair Roy, Karen Newbigging

This paper reports on the introduction of ‘Help Direct’, a new initiative in Lancashire, England. This is a universal service which aims to give people the right information or advice, individual guidance or practical help before a problem becomes a crisis. As part of the initial development of the model of delivery, the authors were commissioned to undertake research to investigate the views of relevant people who might use the service. The research had three overarching aims, namely to explore how potential users understand well-being, to explore the possible contribution of the service to maintainingindependence and supporting well-being, and to identify factors that might facilitate and inhibit the use of such a service for different groups. Data collection took place between August and December 2008. The findings reported here draw on the focus group data. A total of 11 focus groups (n = 100) were convened in collaboration with community organisations. The paper describes the ways in which different groups conceptualise wellbeing and help seeking, and moves on to examinethe implications of delivering a universal service to heterogeneous communities in relation to the concept of proportionate universalism. Thus, although the study is based in one county of England, the themes are considered to be relevant to a wider audience.