Short Breaks for Carers
A story by Falkirk & Clackmannanshire Carers Centre
We provided grants directly to carers who live in Falkirk district or Clackmannanshire, to plan and pay for a short break of their choice.
What Short Breaks for Carers did
This funding allowed us to continue to offer grants of up to £300 to local carers, extending eligibility in this round to young carers and young adult carers. Funding from the Falkirk Integrated Care Fund for carers caring for an adult in the Falkirk area allowed us to increase the number of Creative Breaks grants we were able to make. In total, 160 Creative Breaks grants were made to carers in Falkirk District and Clackmannanshire.
We promoted the Creative Breaks programme on our website, on social media and in our newsletter which is distributed to local carers, GP practices, libraries, hospitals, community care teams, local third sector organisations etc. Local organisations and agencies, including Social Work and third sector organisations, promoted the programme through their communication channels. Carer Support Workers were also able to offer this opportunity directly to carers as part of their carer support planning work with individual carers.
Carers completed a Creative Breaks application form, with assistance from a Carer Support Worker if required. The application form sought to gather information about the carer, their caring role, the type of break and expected benefits, and other information that would allow eligibility to be established and verified and to allow the applications to be prioritised for awards.
Applications were submitted every 6 weeks to a panel made up of a member of the Carers Centre's Board, a representative from Social Work and two Carers Centre Service Managers (adult carer support and young carer/young adult carer support).
All successful applicants were required to submit receipts for breaks taken, except in cases where the break had been paid for directly by the organisation which was often the case for young carer breaks. All recipients of awards were also required to complete an evaluation form following their break.
Laura used to do everything for her parents herself, however the strain of her caring role took its toll on Laura’s own health and she had a breakdown. Although Laura continues to cook for her parents, does their laundry and sees them every day, her parents now receive support from care workers three times a day and have a ‘meals on wheels’ service in place.
Laura managed to take a short break in a caravan in 2014 but was unwell while she was away and prior to that had not had a break for 3 or 4 years since she started caring for her parents.
Laura first contacted the Carers Centre and met with a Carer Support Worker in 2015 after reaching a point where she knew she had to try and do something to help herself. At this meeting the Carer Support Worker told Laura about the Creative Breaks fund and helped her complete a form. Laura wanted to take a break with her husband in a caravan on a beach beside a loch. In her application she said, ‘I think if I could just get away, I would feel so much more relaxed and less stressed’, she said, ‘I often feel so tired, I could drop. It would be lovely to feel that I can still do things, still have fun’. Laura was delighted when she was awarded £300 for her chosen break.
Following her break, Laura completed an evaluation questionnaire and, literally, ‘ticked all the boxes’, saying that, as a result of her break her physical, mental and emotional health improved, she felt less stressed, less tired and had more energy, she felt better able to cope with her caring role and felt more able to have a life outside her caring role. The relationship with her parents and other family members improved and she felt better informed and more confident about planning and organising future breaks.
She said, "I felt so relaxed when I came back from my break…Thank you so much, it helped a lot….I was able to go walking in the hills and countryside while I was away. I cannot thank you enough for helping us."
When Alice contacted the Carers Centre, she was very distressed and had been signed off work due to acute stress and anxiety, she was struggling to cope with providing full-time care, with little support, for her father who was extremely demanding. She had no time at all for herself.
Alice recognised that she could not continue as things were and, with the Carer Support Worker, developed a Carer Support Plan which included steps that would allow Alice to step back a bit from her caring role. This included talking to other family members to ask them to help, setting aside time to spend with her husband while someone else was ‘on duty’ for her father, trying to persuade her father to accept a Befriender since he was unwilling to accept outside help with care and making an application to the Creative Breaks Fund so that she could get away with her husband for a much needed break and to spend time together.
Alice applied to the Creative Breaks Fund for a 2/3 day break at a lodge she had stayed in 4 years previously with her husband, she stated that she wanted to use this as an opportunity to try ‘to get Dad to see that it can’t always be me’.
Following her break, Alice said, "Myself and my husband stayed at a log cabin for 3 days/nights. Although only half an hour away, it felt like the other side of the world. The 3 day break was probably the deciding factor that made me able to continue providing care for my dad as I was at breaking point."
Lucy receives support from the Young Adult Carers Project at the Carers Centre and, although she can occasionally turn to an aunt for help, mostly she copes on her own and is reluctant to speak to any of her friends about her home situation.
Having spent a year caring for her mum full-time after leaving school, Lucy secured a place at college studying something that she was passionate about and had enjoyed at school, she was unable to pursue this interest at home as she did not have a means of accessing the internet. She applied to the Creative Breaks Fund for a grant that would allow her to purchase a laptop so that she could take up her passion again. As Lucy did not have a smart phone, having a laptop would also mean that she could connect with friends on social media, reducing her isolation. She would also be able to do her college work at home, rather than being restricted to using the library computers at college.
When Lucy received her award, she was over the moon and went with the Carer Support Worker to choose it. She said in her evaluation questionnaire that, as a result of this award, she felt less stressed and felt that it allowed her to pursue interests and activities outside her caring role.
She wrote, "I have been sorting my CV and applying for part-time jobs. I can keep in touch with the Young Adult Carers Project Worker better now. I’ve joined some online forums which has helped me a lot too. Just want to say thanks too, I can’t believe I’ve got it."
What Falkirk & Clackmannanshire Carers Centre has learnedIn this round of Short Breaks Funding, we have continued to witness the difference a short break can make to a carer, not just during and immediately after the break, but in the longer term too. The process of applying for and receiving a short break award can, in itself, help the carer to think about themselves and their situation in a different way, leading to long term changes and ongoing benefits.
We have been able to support carers who might otherwise be unable to access other services and support due to the nature of their caring role by being flexible about how the grant can be used, for example, to access regular pampering sessions where an overnight stay is not possible, or to purchase materials for hobbies, such as cake decorating, to enable the carer to pursue their own hobbies and interests.
Opening up the fund in this round to young carers and young adult carers has resulted in the funding being used in different ways for example for driving lessons, residential breaks, family outings and concert tickets.
This year, we have also benefited from funding from the local Integrated Care Fund for short breaks for carers to improve the health and well being of carers. This has been administered in the same way as the Short Breaks Fund grant, using the same processes, our previous experience of Creative Breaks allowing us to manage this additional funding efficiently and effectively to directly benefit carers and those they care for.
This has also helped us build and strengthen links with the local authority and has led to an increase in referrals to the Carers Centre.