How we reach out to people in Glasgow


Macmillan @ Glasgow Libraries was launched in 2012 with an ambition to ensure that no one faces cancer alone. Glasgow, the largest city in Scotland, has the one of the highest cancer incidence rates in Europe – this ambition was no mean feat. The programme is a substantial and complex initiative that represented a step-change for Macmillan and a different way of doing business for Glasgow Life.

This year our partnership will operate in 33 libraries and two leisure centres across the city, providing anyone affected by cancer with information, emotional support and access to other services including complementary therapies and counselling provided by Cancer Support Scotland and benefits advice provided by the Long Term Conditions and Macmillan Service.

In 2014 Social Value Lab on behalf of Macmillan Cancer Support and Glasgow Life presented the findings from an evaluation of Phase 1 of our services. The evidence indicated that people using the service were highly satisfied and derived great value from it. The main reason for approaching the service is for emotional support with the combination of talking and onward referrals accounting for almost three quarters of all interventions by Macmillan Cancer Information & Support Volunteers.

Drop in sessions in libraries were complemented by an Events Programme up until late 2014, which focused on raising awareness and signposting individuals to their local Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Service. However, the staff and volunteers attending these sessions quickly recognised a significant need for on the spot support and information.

The Macmillan brand is so strong that wherever we were pitching up, we were finding a huge number of vulnerable people affected by cancer presenting to our volunteers in need of more than just some simple signposting.

This learning complemented the external evaluation which suggested that if we were truly dedicated to achieving our initial ambition, we should investigate the potential of a more targeted and pro-active approach to ensuring that the population of Glasgow has access to cancer information and support.  This learning led to the development and introduction of a dedicated outreach programme.

In September 2015 the Macmillan Engagement Team expanded to two staff, Craig Tobin and Pip Lawrenson, which allowed for the outreach programme to flourish. Soon we were delivering a comprehensive and varied diary across a wide range of community venues. We have one dedicated outreach volunteer and the programme is supplemented by the Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Volunteers who are provided additional training on techniques of engaging the public and the processes which support the operational delivery of the services.

Feedback from volunteers indicates the sessions are rewarding and are a good platform for volunteers to use and develop skills.

Maureen has volunteered at Outreach sessions over the past year; “I have always enjoyed being at Outreach events and found them to be a positive experience. I feel they create the opportunity to engage with a diverse group of people and raise awareness of our services and now we have a private area at Outreach the opportunity to offer a more responsive and personal service is available.”

Experiences of other volunteers can be found here.

To date, 164 Outreach sessions have been held across the city in venues such as health centres, hospitals, community centres and large corporate organisations such as British Gas.

Through these Outreach sessions a total of 3,424 people have been made aware of their local Macmillan Cancer Information and Support Service and 630 people affected by cancer were supported on the spot.

Donnie McDonald received support and information at a session in his community: “I came across Macmillan @ Glasgow Libraries on a visit to Penilee Community Centre where an Outreach session was being held. There I met Pip who listened to my problems regarding fitness and mobility and suggested the Move More program. She was correct; it was exactly what I needed.”

Outreach sessions held in New Stobhill Hospital, New Victoria Hospital and the newly built Queen Elizabeth University Hospital have given us a platform to interact with 695 people and ensure our support was there when people needed it most.

These sessions have also allowed us talk with healthcare professionals about the support we offer and how their patients can access it. Due to the success of these sessions Service Level Agreements were created to allow for Outreach sessions to take place bimonthly in collaboration with the Support and Information Services (formerly Patient Information Centres).

Community hub The Pearce Institute houses the UK’s only Macmillan Café and is the base for Improving Your Cancer Journey and the Long Term Conditions and Macmillan Service. It is also home to one-a-month, volunteer led Outreach sessions.

As part of Phase 2 of Macmillan @ Glasgow Libraries, the sessions held in The Pearce Institute have been ‘handed over’ to two highly experienced volunteers who lead the service with remote support from the Macmillan Engagement Officer. As Phase 2 rolls out, the handover of more Outreach sessions to volunteers will be explored, using learnings from The Pearce Institute pilot as a guide.

The Outreach programme is going from strength to strength and future focus will be on targeting certain demographics the library services are not already reaching and tackling any inequalities in accessing our service. By working with and for communities in Glasgow we will make sure no one faces cancer alone.

By Pip Lawrenson

Pip is the the operational lead for the outreach programme which involves developing and maintaining relationships where outreach services are held to strengthen programme awareness. She supports volunteers at outreach sessions and work with the team to recruit, develop and train volunteers.  She also manages Macmillan @ Glasgow Libraries social media networks, extending its reach and increasing interactions with partners, volunteers and people affected by cancer.