Day centres: understanding the value of day centres for their regular users

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Summary of report content

In early 2020 Surrey County Council initiated a review of the daytime activities offer for older people across Surrey.  Healthwatch Surrey offered to help by undertaking qualitative research with day centre users.  The research was undertaken during the Covid-19 pandemic and they spoke to 9 people.

Day Centre attendance strongly supports mental health; primarily by enabling social interaction but also by providing meaningful activity. Importantly this social interaction is with a range of different kinds of people – often friends, but also acquaintances and strangers; not just with peers, but a across a range of ages, interests and experiences. It also happens across a range of experiences: chatting, sharing a meal, learning something, doing something. Volunteering/helping at the centre, supporting others (formally or informally) and learning new skills contribute to feelings of self-worth and personal value.

The social side of attending a Day Centre is an activity in itself – in fact, it is the primary activity relating to Day Centres. For most regular visitors individual activities are not the primary driver for visiting the Day Centre – people go to a Day Centre because it is a social ecosystem, a community that also happens to offer good activities. Meeting and chatting with friends, sharing activities, interacting with different kinds of people, being out in the world are the key drivers for most. - Day Centres are also valued for their practical offer, including cooked meals, exercise and activity, services such as podiatry, and providing a means of information and skills exchange.

Transport and travel time/physical effort are significant barriers. Mobility, continence, fatigue, sight and hearing problems all mean that the only viable transport option for many is door to door vehicular access. Few drive so (where no transport is provided) this means enlisting family and friends, arranging volunteer drivers or paying for a taxi both ways.

Even where door to door transport is provided, the time and effort that need to be invested to get to an activity can be very high. A stay of several hours with good social interaction and multiple activities makes the effort worthwhile. - For a Day Centre user the “value” of a Day Centre is judged by weighing up the benefits of social interaction and meaningful activities against the difficulty of travelling to and from the centre.

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General details

Report title 
Day centres: understanding the value of day centres for their regular users
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch Surrey
Date of publication 
Friday, 30 April, 2021
Date evidence capture began 
Friday, 1 May, 2020
Date evidence capture finished 
Friday, 31 July, 2020
Key themes 
Holistic support
Lifestyle and wellbeing
Quality of care

Methodology and approach

Was the work undertaken at the request of another organisation? 
What type of organisation requested the work 
Local Council
Primary research method used 
Structured interview
If an Enter and View methodology was applied, was the visit announced or unannounced? 

Details of health and care services included in the report

Social care services 
Day care (social care services)

Details of people who shared their views

Number of people who shared their views 
Age group 
65-85 years
85 +
Not known
Sexual orientation 
Not known
Does the information include public's views? 
Does the information include carer's, friend's or relative's views? 
Not known
Does the information include staff's views? 
What was the main sentiment of the people who shared their views? 

Outcomes and impact

Were recommendations made by local Healthwatch in the report? 
Does the information contain a response from a provider? 
Is there evidence of impact in the report? 
Is there evidence of impact external to the report? 
Not known
What type of impact was determined? 
Implied Impact

Network Impact
Relationships that exist locally, regionally, nationally have benefited from the work undertaken in the report
Implied Impact
Where it is implied that change may occur in the future as a result of Healthwatch work. This can be implied in a provider  response, press release or other source. Implied impact can become tangible impact once change has occurred.
Tangible Impact
There is evidence of change that can be directly attributed to Healthwatch work undertaken in the report.