A story by Angus Carers Centre
We provided carers in Angus with a choice of activities to help them get some time away from caring. The voucher scheme allowed carers with identified health & well being needs to select a therapist of their choice (from a list of registered therapists) at a time and location of their choice.
The crafty carers group and the carers gardening group provided a weekly social group for adults to meet up and spend a bit of focused relaxation time whilst pursuing a hobby.
What Breakfree did
The previous round of Creative Breaks funding paid for a voucher scheme which was advertised in our newsletter, carers then requested vouchers in response to this. This became a "first come first served basis" The current funding (from Jan to October 2015) was used to provide carers with access to a therapist, using the same flexible voucher scheme. However the voucher was only issued when a carer support or development worker has completed an internal referral form and submitted this to the Team Leader.
This referral would be made after a "CISP" (a Carer Information & Support Plan) was completed or when a need was identified at some point during the carers support plan. The choice of therapies included massage, candelling, pampering (facials and manicures, reflexology reiki, lava shell and hot stones message etc). We selected therapists to join our programme who cover a range of towns in Angus.
We also provided a Crafty Carers Programme. These were 6 week sessions took place through put the year. We had been running these programmes for a few years now. In the first year we employed a sessional arts worker to lead the group. This year carers were encouraged to take on a 'facilitators' role so they could share the craft skills they had learnt in previous programmes with carers who were newer to the group.
Although the arts worker was still required their role did change to a supporting role to carers rather than always having to lead the group. Now that we have relocated to larger premises we have been able to create a space where adult carers will be able call in to spend time in the centre and be independent of programmes which need to be fully coordinated by staff. Some of the core group of crafty carers have been invited to book space in the centre and run their own group. Our carer engagement worker will be supporting them in this process.
The final element of our Creative Breaks Programme was the Gardening Group. A core group of 6 - 8 hardy carers came to the centre every Monday morning to tend the lovely garden we had at the back of the centre.
We offered a therapy voucher in the hope that this would help to give her sometime to herself where she was the focus and also help her to relax. R chose the shell massage.
This was the first time she has ever experienced anything like this and she went onto use her other vouchers to try out reflexology. As R is not in the best of health herself the therapy sessions gave her her first experience of focusing in on herself and actually talking thorough her own health issues, R has now accepted support from our counselor. The therapy session acted as a gateway for R accepting more intensive support.
Earlier this year M was referred into the Therapy Voucher Scheme and opted to have Reflexology. For many years M. has suffered and been treated for eye problems, she was amazed that this was identified by the therapist, without having to be told about it. The therapy had a short term benefit on her eye condition, as well as Ms general well-being at the time of her treatments.
J received her therapy voucher and decided to use it for a massage. The therapist that she went to commented that J’s back had been ‘needing a massage for a long time’ as she was so tense. J reported that the massage had really helped her to relax and that it had been so helpful that she planned to have them more regularly when she could afford it.
What Angus Carers Centre has learnedThis fund has provided an extra layer of support which the workers can readily provide to the carer with when they need sometime our without having to go on a waiting list or encounter layers bureaucracy. The flexibility of the voucher scheme means carers can book a time which is suitable to them and by making that commitment they are more likely to attend and not feel obliged to prioritise another persons needs/demands above their own.
We had underestimated the amount of support we needed from our administration worker who managed the voucher scheme once a referral had been approved. We need to create a number of new procedures to cope with different stages involved with up to three the vouchers being issued only after feedback from the carers had been received by the support worker.
The voucher scheme was a really effective way of encouraging carers to take some timeout for themselves. The issuing of the voucher represented them getting 'permission' to think about their own needs. This gesture was as important as the actual experience of the therapy itself.
We now have the challenge of maintaining this provision, even on a smaller scale for those carers who have particular need for sometime to themselves.
The popularity and effectiveness of these interventions have set an expectation that this will become a core element of what we can provide. This gives us with the challenge of discovering innovative ways of sustaining this scheme in the longer term either for those who are trying a therapy for the fist time and those who wish to have repeat treatments but can't afford it themselves.
To make sure that other partners (e.g social work and health workers) are clear about the parameters and criteria of the scheme. We had some carers asking for a therapy session because they had heard about this 'on the grape vine' that other people had got vouchers. It required a great deal of sensitivity on the part of the workers to explain to someone why they didn't meet our criteria.