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  • Staying well, connected to others and resilient
  • Regaining independence

British Red Cross - First Call service Refusing to ignore people in crisis


At the British Red Cross we strive towards a world where everyone gets the help they need in a crisis.

We believe that every crisis is personal, which is why we provide impartial support to people based on their humanitarian need and nothing else.

In the UK we respond to emergencies such as fires and floods, support refugees and asylum seekers, help people to live independently after coming home from hospital, and train people in first aid.

We’re an organisation made possible by everyday acts of human kindness. We’re powered by more than 18,000 volunteers and nearly 4,000 staff. It’s their determination to help others, along with the generosity of our supporters, that allows us to do what we do.


The British Red Cross First Call service is a high quality, volunteer-led solution to the increased need for care and support because people are living longer. It provides support to people (particularly those 65 years and over) to help them recover from a crisis and increase their confidence and enable them to remain independent at home for longer. As a result, service beneficiaries will have a reduced demand for statutory services.


This service offers flexible and responsive support using a combination of telephone calls and home visits. Our level of support changes in line with the person’s increase in independence and resilience. The service provides four tiers of support:

  • Tier 1: Occasional telephone calls to those who would benefit from a ‘safety net’ or one-off signposting as required.
  • Tier 2: Regular calls to check things are ok, to discuss problems and to signpost to additional support.
  • Tier 3: A combination of telephone calls and visits to the person’s home providing emotional support
  • Tier 4: All of the above, as well as additional practical support such as shopping, domestic tasks, arranging transport, etc.

Our support workers and volunteers are trained to provide emotional support.  They use the time they have with each person to build trusting relationships.

Referrals can be accepted directly from individuals and do not need to be referred by a health professional.

Evidence base

Top Three Goals (TTG) is a person-centred support planning tool developed by the British Red Cross in conjunction with Helen Sanderson Associates. The person identifies what their priority goals are whilst receiving support and assistance from First Call staff and volunteers. This approach also provides a focus for the type of support and interaction for volunteers/staff in supporting the person. This gives the Red Cross the opportunity to quantify the effectiveness of the support provided and enables us to produce reports to reflect the difference we have made for our people who use services. In 2018 we supported 1621 new service beneficiaries. They set 3467 goals and 94.4% of them were “achieved or made a lot of progress”.

Expected impact

The service aims to increase the independence and resilience of the people it supports. Offering time limited support reduces the likelihood of the person becoming dependant on statutory support. A defined date for service withdrawal encourages the person to take meaningful steps to achieve greater independence and resilience focusing on their aims set out in their Top Three Goals support plan.


First call began in 2017 as a two year project as part of the Accelerating Ideas - Nesta partnership. Originally developed in two areas, it now runs in Bristol with CCG funding. Services have now been opened in Scotland, Worcester and Derbyshire. We hope to work wtih Nesta to scale the First Call Support at Home model UK wide to include a minimum of 11 areas by 2020, with a potential to include ares in Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and Wales. 

What would councils/health organisations/local areas need to do or have in place to enable it to develop?

  • An understanding of local need and how the service would make a difference.
  • A thorough knowledge of existing local resources to signpost people to.
  • The availability of financial resources to ensure the sustainability of the new service.

What would kill it?

  • Lack of available resources to fund the service on an ongoing basis.
  • No strategic commitment to this type of service.

Where to go for more information

You can find additional information here: