The But 'n' Ben Group
A story by Angus Carers Centre
Angus Carers organised a programme of events/activities specifically for male carers, designed to give them an opportunity to take a break for themselves, away from their caring role.
The activities included weekly drop in sessions and trips to venues and events throughout Angus and further afield.
What The But 'n' Ben Group did
Our project offered weekly drop-in sessions at our premises in Arbroath every Monday morning, a fortnightly Tuesday lunchtime session at a local Pool Hall as well as a Friday morning meet up, held in a different locality each week.
Alongside these sessions we offered one off trips and events, including Glamis Transport Extravaganza a vintage car event near Forfar, a boat trip along the coastline between Arbroath and Montrose with a spot of sea fishing thrown in, a day away at Knockhill Racing Circuit at the British Touring Car Championships and a morning at an Escape Room venue in Dundee, followed by spot of lunch.
We had also planned a theatre trip, a birds of prey handling event, a brewery tour and a trip to Scotland's Secret Nuclear Bunker but unfortunately, these trips had to be postponed for one reason or another and time would not allow us to reschedule. Local Golf Clubs were on board and offered us spaces at their venues to hold our weekly meet ups and use of their golf simulator and driving ranges, even their Foot Golf Course for something a little different. The Pool Hall in Arbroath were very helpful when we were setting this up, and Glamis Castle even donated wristbands to access a guided tour of the Castle.
We mailed the programme of events to an initial group of 64 men. This group consisted of those who had attended male carer events in previous years and those who had expressed an interest in the project when it was first advertised in our Winter 2017 carers newsletter. Responses were limited so we carried out a second mailing to a further 42 men. These men were picked in accordance with information supplied by their support workers, related to their individual situations and the potential benefit to them. i.e. availability/lack of opportunities in their area, rural or town based, access to peer support from other sources, family support etc.
Events were attended by a range of male carers, from those caring for wives and partners to Dads caring for young, and adult, children. Catering for such a diverse range of ages and individual situations proved a challenge and this was reflected in the overall attendances during the project.
What Angus Carers Centre has learned
Ensuring that the wrap around support for male carers is embedded into the planning and delivery of the group/s. We know that inviting carers to groups or events/activities 'cold' without prep work is unlikely to support them to attend or to attend more than a few times. The relationship with the lead Carers Development Worker who can provide the pre and post support is vital in establishing the link with individual male carers.
More targeting of carers, both geographically and interest based. Before taking this specific work forward we need to refresh our understanding of what male carers would like support with and, importantly, ask current and new male carers what circumstances might prevent them from attending a group or event they had expressed an interest in.
We usually experience a certain amount of call offs just prior to an event or activity in response to the ever changing circumstances of the day in a life of a carer. However in this programme we experience a larger than expected number of late call offs. When scoping our next male carers programme we can use the learning from this project to improve the carers experience and increase our capacity to support carers to attend by liking more our other services just as respite care and befriending.
How Angus Carers Centre has benefitted from the funding
Supported us to focus on a population of carers we have not had the resource to provide a specific short break programme for. Were able to respond to male carers requests for this specific focus support We have a better understanding of the need to embed wrap around support for male carers and discover what the current blocks are to make carers being able to get to the events and activities they had expressed an interest in.
45 carers will have attended local support groups which will provide basic relaxation techniques that they can use on a day-to-day basis. We will have piloted a male carer only WRAP Programme. (Two of our Carer Development Workers are now accredited to facilitate Wellness Recovery Action Planning )
A broad context of this work is that we did not have contact with the numbers of male carers as we had expected. The project could only be run for 6 months rather than the 12 months we had hoped. (Staff hours were the same but with a more condensed programme). We had designed the programme by speaking to male carers about what they would like., but with the delay in starting we had lost some of the momentum of these initial conversations. The only criteria for people to get involved in this programme was that they were male carers. This meant that the programme needed to satisfy too many variables to be the success we know it can still be e.g geographic location of activities and groups in rural Angus, age and interest of the carers. Many of the carers who wanted to come to the groups and activities found that their caring role did not provide them with the time out they would need or other demands where places on their time .
50 carers will take part in local activity programmes which will introduce them to the people who are involved in local community groups located on their doorstep. Male carers will continue to take part in some of these groups, either as participant or as a volunteer when the project has ended.
As with Outcome 1, unfortunately we did not have contact with the numbers of male carers as we had expected to be able to deliver successfully with this outcome. When we compare the reach of this Male Carers Programme with the success of our other Short breaks programme, this missing element for this particular programme was the wrap around link from a Carers Development Worker. When we design a future activity programme designed for male carers (whether this is geographic or interest based) we will need to remember to embed a carer development worker to the project at the planning stages).
Male carers will have developed friendships and friendship groups with other male carers from their local areas and across Angus. They will be able to share emotional ups and downs, information on how to get the best support for themselves and those they care for and will be more aware of the help available.
For the male carers who were able to attend the groups and activities this was a particularly successful element of the project. The carers who attended regularly where able to build up friendships and generate the peer support that we had hoped would happen.
One gentleman, who attended all but one of our activities, had told the worker that he didn't have many male peers out with his family. He is unable to work due to his caring responsibilities for his wife and daughter. As a result of this he feels he has been missing out on aspects of 'male camaraderie'. By attending our activities he was able to meet and chat with other men, sharing stories and experiences around hobbies and interests and as a result regain part of his identity, separate from being a husband, dad and carer, he was "just a bloke talking about cars and sports." He commented that he had been amazed at how easy he had found it to get along with the rest of the males in the group, especially with such different ages and backgrounds. He stated that he had initially been quite nervous about attending but the chance to share in experiences rather than attending a more formal support group was much less daunting for him. Through attending our pool and snooker hall sessions he said he had found an old passion reignited, and after bringing along his son (prospective Young Carer) to sessions during the school holidays, they planned to return to the venue in future, as an opportunity for them to take some quality time out together.