Time to Live for Mental Health Carers
A story by Time to Live for Mental Health Carers
We provided grants directly to carers who care for an adult with serious mental health problems or mental illness living in Scotland.
What Time to Live for Mental Health Carers did
We applied the same process as previously although we ran 4 rounds of applications rather than 2 as requested by the panel. We applied quite detailed criteria having learned that this was the only way of making fair decisions when there is more demand than can be met. We split the applications amongst the panel with a checklist for decision-making. This allowed each panel member to focus on fewer forms and so we all believed we were making much more considered and fair judgements.
Compared to 2015, 2016 showed increase in applications of 25% and an awards increase by 38%. To advertise the fund we targeted areas where uptake in past years have been relatively low, namely the Highlands and Islands including an advert in publications covering Highland area via all newspapers and journals over Christmas period. We also targeted Borders and Aberdeen areas. We revised our in-house produced promotional leaflet to give examples of possible breaks with smaller amounts of money, to encourage a variety of activities including ongoing leisure like cinema-pass.
We were aimed to encourage applications for breaks other than holiday breaks, not only to give people ideas for breaks that might bring longer term benefit but also to enable us to spread the limited funds more widely with smaller sums going to larger numbers of people. This had a small impact on the types of breaks requested but not as great as we had hoped. We still received a large number of applications simply for the full amount towards a family holiday or break.
“Awesome experience, learning to drive has helped me to manage my stress levels which in turn has helped with my confidence. It allows me to have a break once a week to take part in an enjoyable activity. It has also enabled me to learn a new skill which will become a vital part of my caring role. I am very grateful to have been given this opportunity. I cannot put into words how much this means to me” (series of driving lessons).
“My stress has reduced [with my new enclosed garden]. The dog doesn’t wander off any more and my son spends more time out there pacing instead of doing it in the house which is a HUGE relief. Then it rains and is misty and the brightness of the gate brightens up my outlook. I wish I could better express how it makes a difference. My son said he feels safer. The garden in now enclosed. It is not open on to a wide expanse of ground. I have attached fairy lights so that even at night it draws your eyes in closer and gives a more ‘closed in’ feeling – I really think it will be a life saver in the winter.” (Mother with a son with schizophrenia creates an enclosed garden)
One very elderly carer asked for money to build a proper bird table, because of her age and her husband’s severe mental health problems she could not take advantage of a break away from home, but she loves feeding the birds in her garden. This has given her enormous pleasure over the summer and early Autumn. Something just for her in very difficult circumstances.
“It was really good to get out and do things in the summer. It was nice to go out with mum, having the vouchers means we had ideas about where to go and what to do. I really enjoyed the cinema, I like watching BFG all of it was really good fun!”(young carer asked for money to activity vouchers to have time with her mum rather than away on her own)
What Time to Live for Mental Health Carers has learnedWe have developed really clear and effective processes for managing this type of scheme and we would like to find funding in the future to do something similar as it has had such a significant impact for carers. It has been a dedicated project for one of our staff who has developed great expertise and knowledge now that we can use in many other ways.
We reached people new to our organisation and some of those carers have joined the organisation and/or taken part in other activities we have run. In addition to direct links with carers we have also linked up with other organisations and developed a good database of carers organisations.
We know a great deal about short breaks now and the kinds of breaks that make the most difference. Although many carers did seek a break or annual holiday, an increasing number applied for different types of time out, and we now have a bank of case studies that can evidence the value of short breaks for mental health carers specifically. In particular we have been surprised by the number of people choosing breaks with the person they are caring for.