We are delighted to report that we have received 5 year funding from the Big Lottery Fund for a new wellbeing service for adult carers, across Bristol and South Gloucestershire.
Over the last 18 months carers have helped us every step of the way in developing the service and we want to say a big thank you to everyone who has provided feedback or input into the process.
We have designed the service around support based online and by phone. This reduces some of the barriers carers told us about accessing services, such as being unable to leave the person they care for and lack of transport. However, for carers with greater access difficulties, some home based support will be possible.
The services will enhance our existing CarersLine service, enabling us to spend more time giving carers regular emotional support, alongside practical information, advice and guidance and will increase capacity and complement all our existing services. We aim to have the service up and running by January 2019 and will be sending you further information about how to refer for support over the next few months.
Kerry McCarthy MP has written with her congratulations, saying: “I wanted to congratulate you on securing funding from the Big Lottery Fund. I hope this will enable Carers Support Centre to continue with the fantastic work of supporting unpaid carers in Bristol and beyond.”
What carers told us
Back in February 2017 we held group discussions with 50 carers at an open meeting. This was followed with a survey, carried out online and in carers groups, completed by over 300 carers. We followed this up with another survey in February 2018, which was completed by 222 carers; and a focus group with 14 carers with diverse caring situations and backgrounds.
When asked about the emotional toll caring can take, carers told us it can make them feel overwhelmed, unvalued, and like they have no time for themselves.
We then discussed ways we might offer emotional support services and listened to what would be helpful. The responses were varied. However common themes were:
- not wanting to further burden friends and family
- the importance of talking to someone impartial who understands
- wanting to be able to talk to the same person who knew their personal situation and not having to keep repeating this.
From our first survey, 94% agreed that a service offering emotional support would be helpful. In our second survey, 69% said they would be interested in a befriending service; 63% would be interested in a carer buddying service; and 63% a counselling service.
In our second survey, we asked what we could do, or what would help carers access each service. Most common responses included the need for flexibility and having control over appointments, having good publicity, and being able to match buddies appropriately e.g. experience, cultural awareness.
When we asked for any additional comments, 21% said they had no further comments; but 61% of survey respondents used the opportunity to give positive responses confirming the need for the service; and another 8% offered suggestions which might enhance the service. Some commented that these services would have been useful at the start of their caring role, and others highlighted that carers’ needs can change very quickly therefore knowing that these services were available would be reassuring.
Our main learning, from consultation, confirmed our understanding that each carer’s situation is unique and that these services need to be offered as flexibly as possible, which is how we will aim to deliver the service.
What the new service will include
befriending – giving regular emotional support by telephone, Skype or email. Carers will be contacted every 2– 4 weeks. The appointment will be prearranged and last up to one hour. Support will be provided for up to a year. The service will be run with specifically trained volunteers, enabling carers to establish a trusting relationship with someone who is ready to listen, knows their ‘story’ and understands their caring situation.
buddying – supporting new or newly identified carers with someone who has experience of caring and can give information, advice and support. Often new carers tell us ‘I just don’t know where to start’ and we want to help you navigate the complex health and social care systems and the use of jargon by practitioners. We will match carers and former carers who have valuable experience with people in similar caring situations.
telephone counselling – giving dedicated and intensive support, from a qualified counsellor. This will be provided over the phone, Skype or email, and will offer 6 weekly sessions of counselling.
To get involved
- Are you interested in becoming a volunteer buddy or befriender?
- How about helping us set up, monitor and develop the service through our Project Steering Group?
- Would you like to share your experiences and develop new skills as part of an accredited training scheme?
- Can you commit to a minimum of 2–3 hours a week for a minimum of 12 months?
To find out more please contact Karen Hurley, Health & Carer Support Manager: 0117 958 9976