Carer Befriending Project
A story by Eric Liddell Centre
The Befriending Project offered carers living in Edinburgh who are caring for someone on an unpaid basis, the opportunity to get a quality break from their caring role on a friendly and informal basis.
What Carer Befriending Project did
We made a positive impact by offering 1 to 1 befriending meetings, introducing carers and befriending volunteers to each other which was on a friendly, personalised, informal and supportive basis. There were monthly befriending gatherings offered to provide opportunities to enrich carers' social networks whilst also giving an opportunity to attend information sessions on a variety of subjects
Befriending meetings took place weekly, fortnightly or monthly outwith the home allowing the carers to have a choice to decide what they did and when. Referrals were made from various carers and social services projects with quite a few self referrals. We were able to handle all referrals with no one being turned away. In addition to the existing pool of befrienders, during this project year we recruited and trained further volunteers
Focus groups were held for both carers and befrienders to ensure we were delivering what they wanted and met the requirements of the project. Quarterly reviews took place with both carers and befrienders to ensure they were receiving appropriate and relevant support. We maintained contact with other carer organisations and participated in the Edinburgh Carers Network and advertised at local fairs to ensure we were kept up-to-date with carers news and vice versa.
We participated in Befriending Networks Common Ground Meetings and annual conference to network with other befriending agencies. We participated in Inspire Meetings at Volunteer Edinburgh to network with other agencies who manage volunteers.
Organisation held a Befriending Appeal to promote all areas of Befriending which generated interest in donating and recruiting carers and volunteers. Met with carers at focus groups or reviews and gained positive feedback how the project had supported and benefited them. Had to make a few minor changes on how a couple of befrienders and carers arranged to meet to accommodate the carers requirements.
The Creative Breaks priority areas our project addressed was for carers to have Choice & Control, Outreach and Joint-Working.
What Eric Liddell Centre has learned
Reaching out to and engaging with new families. We have received quite a few referrals from different agencies therefore engaging with a different group of carers who are parents of disabled children. This has been challenging for our project to both the worker and befriender to arrange meetings around carers available time and school timetables.
This has then impacted on the amount of meetings which could have taken place within the relationship. This has left the carer unsupported due to the impossibility of meeting the befriender outwith the home and on their own. It has also left the befriender frustrated in not being able to give appropriate support to the carer.
Many arranged meetings have also been cancelled. We are looking into different ways of how we can best support these carers. We also have carers with mental health difficulties who are often not able to meet up with their befriender. Again, we are looking into how best we can support them. We have in some instances offered telephone befriending. This does work on a short term basis by giving emotional support to the carer but does however not get them out of the home.
Partnership working with The Eric Liddell Centre has various projects which has given us an opportunity to widen our network of partnership working. Students from Napier College have given their time and experience, interviewing and filming befriending participants, to publicise befriending. We also held a befriending appeal to highlight the benefits and impact of befriending which has encouraged new carers, befrienders and donors. We have also been networking with other carer and befriending organisations which has allowed us to share and receive information and good practice.
Finding new sources of funding, this is always very time consuming and disheartening. It has been really fantastic having the full funding for the project from the Short Breaks Fund. It has meant we were able to concentrate on the running of the project without worrying about looking for additional funds. It has proved very difficult however to find continuation funding for the project.
Thankfully from the appeal and the promotion about the benefits of befriending we have managed to fund the project for the next few months whilst still sourcing other avenues of funding.
How Eric Liddell Centre has benefitted from the funding
- It has allowed us to build on the success of our current project and give us the opportunity to develop new partnerships and links with additional projects and organisations. - We were able to support the existing matches plus maintain contact with carers and befrienders who had used the project and were still on our mailing list for receiving information and offer ongoing support from the gatherings - It gave us the opportunity to continue and promote the project further through various channels therefore strengthening the reputation of our organisation - We have been able to promote in different areas therefore attracting people that may not have previously engaged with the project.
30+ Carers will report that due to the befriending relationship they have improved wellbeing and the person they care for has noticed an improvement in their disposition.
There were 22 befriending relationships which took place over the period of the grant. From carrying out reviews all carers recognised an improvement in their wellbeing from having a befriender. In cases where we were able to ascertain that the person they care for had noticed an improvement in their disposition, here are some illustrative quotes, my wife noticed the change in me as I have become more chatty and less depressed so the befriending has helped us both, my partner and I have both started up our crafts again which has been really good for both of us, I’ve got someone to chat to, it’s good for me and the person I care for too. My family and sister have noticed a difference in me saying that I’m more cheerful and positive about everything and more like my old self. The majority of carers who have had a befriender report that they do not have a social circle, and that is why befriending is so important to them.
When I first met the carer he had self referred, he suffered from depression and anxiety issues and did not know how best to support his wife, the person he cared for. He reported not being in a good place and did not want to share how his personal life was with any of his friends therefore leaving him feeling isolated. He felt trapped within the confines of his house and what was happening in his life, he was currently unemployed, having had to give up his previous work due to stress which had been caused by his caring responsibilities. He wanted to try and change to a healthier lifestyle and eventually gain enough confidence to get back into employment. I paired the carer with a new befriender who had just been recruited. It didn’t take them many weeks to gain a bond and find common interests. They started off just sitting having a coffee and getting to know one another. They then started going for walks and having a coffee later which was working well. It meant they could chat away without having to make eye contact and gain exercise helping them to get healthy at the same time. Their walks got more arduous and they started getting into a weekly routine. From the information gained from the carer at our first and subsequent meetings, I sent information that I thought may be of interest to him. This included walking groups, a listening group, respite information, gaining skills for going back into employment etc. From the groups he was interested in the befriender sometimes joined him. I also made referrals to a couple of agencies on his behalf and from this he gained access to an organisation that supported him to attend two of their groups and another organisation where he received a grant to allow him and his wife to go on holiday for the first time in years and participated in a carers only weekend away. Since commencing befriending, the carer has grown in confidence and improved his all over health and wellbeing. He has gained social skills in greeting others whilst out walking when previously he had blocked out everyone around him, has started attending two groups at another organisation where he is now involved socially and interacts with others in the group. He and the befriender also took part in a fundraising walking event which benefited the organisation, he has accessed a respite break for him and his wife allowing them to get away together for the first time in many years improving both of their health and wellbeing. He joined other carers in a weekend break allowing him to network with other carers and get a break away on his own which he has never done, whilst knowing his wife was being cared for. He would not have considered this before. His wife reports the difference she sees in him and by him getting out of the home environment has allowed their relationship to flourish, he reports feeling so much healthier by walking every week, socially interacting with others and by having time away from his caring responsibilities.
30+ Carers will report having more opportunities, choice and control to enjoy regular respite breaks by meeting with their befriender outside the home and how they spend their free time.
There have been 212 meetings taken place which equated to approximately 530 hours of respite. All our befriending meetings took place outside the home therefore giving carers the opportunity to get away from their caring situation. As long as they knew that their cared for person was safe it allowed them the opportunity to enjoy their break. The meetings took place in a variety of settings chosen by the carer e.g. galleries, museums, the Botanics, the water of Leith and most importantly having a cup of tea/coffee too. There were 22 carers who took the opportunity of having a befriending relationship. They reported the benefits of having a befriender to do things with and having someone to talk with. This gave them something to speak about when they were in their home environment. We also had 133 carers attend our monthly befriending gatherings that gave them the opportunity to have a break away from their caring duties which equated to 200 hours respite.
This carer was referred by a Carer Support Worker at the hospital. The cared for person was being discharged back into the community and the carer had received a carers assessment. It was picked up that she could greatly benefit from getting out of the home to do something for herself. When I first met the carer she wanted to go out for walks as she felt that since her husband had become ill he couldn’t walk far or fast. She felt her own mobility was suffering and she was ‘seizing up’. As a couple they had always enjoyed walking and often used to go for long walks and at a decent pace. She didn’t want to go out on her own and felt guilty about doing something without him whilst leaving him in the house on his own. Since he had been in hospital she came to the realisation that he would not gain back his mobility and it was safe to leave him on his own for short periods of time. She was paired with a man who was the same age as one of her son’s so got on instantly and felt comfortable in his company. They met the same day every week and early in the morning whilst her husband was at home taking his time to get up allowing her to feel comfortable being away from him during this time. They talked about everything and anything whist out walking and then finished off with a cup of coffee. She thoroughly enjoyed his company and really enjoyed the conversation and discussions. They also found they had a lot in common albeit the age difference. It allowed her to gain back her mobility and confidence in getting out and about. She started feeling less guilty about leaving her husband knowing that she needed to do this for herself. She found out about other activities for both her and her husband to attend which they are thoroughly enjoying. This is also aiding her independence. Since commencing befriending, the carer has gained an opportunity to enjoy a life outside of her caring role giving her more choice and control to enjoy regular respite away from her husband, she has gained the opportunity for regular walks and exercise, gained the control to get out of the house and away from her husband to do something for herself. She got the opportunity to socially interact with someone else bringing an extra dimension of conversation back to the home and it has allowed her to have the confidence to access another project along with her husband which has opened up more choice. From reviews with the carer I notice a huge difference in her demeanour by way of being more open to suggestions for herself from when she first started on the befriending programme. From discussions with her befriender he encouraged her to explore other avenues in her life to try and gain her sense of identity as it was tied up with the duty she felt towards looking after her husband always putting his needs first. The befriender is also continuing to encourage her to find time with others for her to gain a greater sense of wellbeing.
Recruit + train 10+ volunteers whilst retaining existing volunteers to support carers in their caring role. Carers will report feeling fitter, healthier and less stressed.
During the course of this project, we recruited six new befrienders, and retained nine befrienders who were already befrienders before this project began. We delivered training to all our volunteer befrienders, which guides them in reflective listening, boundaries, confidentiality and a broad understanding of the difficulties that carers encounter using case studies. From the induction and any subsequent training, befrienders gain a true perspective of the frustrations, anxieties and isolation that carers face and the impact caring has on their physical and mental health. After each meeting with their befriendee we ask our befrienders to note any change, either positively or negatively, on their situations. At our quarterly reviews with all carers we ask if befriending has had an impact on them and, if so, what this has been. These are some quotes, it's got me back to being me, it's camaraderie and friendship and getting out, it’s really helped my mood a lot.
This carer self referred through finding out about the project from VOCAL (Edinburgh Carer Support Agency). It was very important for her to not be identified as a carer but as someone who supported her sister. This was due to her not residing with her sister and as she had had a life outwith her caring responsibilities. Their parents had carried out all the caring duties, falling to her once they had passed away. Her sister has a learning disability and mental health difficulties. When we first met, she was extremely frustrated by the statutory authorities and health service, having to chase every single thing up all of the time which was creating a lot of stress and anxiety for her. She didn’t like to discuss her caring responsibilities with her friends as they were always trying to offer advice, not realising the true extent of the situation nor realising that it was often not possible to go down that route. She wanted to have a befriender that was interesting to talk to (not waffling on about trivia), non-judgemental and to meet regularly for discussion and coffee. The befriender that I paired the carer with has a broad set of skills, recently retired and is a very interesting person who has experience of working with people whilst also having similar interests to the carer. They got on very well and had some very interesting conversations and went to different venues e.g. Edinburgh Book Festival and Scottish Portrait Gallery. From reviews, the carer reported what a good match it was and how very interesting and nice she was to chat with which led them to have a wide variety of meaningful conversations. It helped her to have a befriender to talk with and a person for her who had nothing to do with her sister. She spoke about the importance of having someone who not only listened to what she was saying and doing but also showed a genuine interest in her. At our last review I certainly noticed a difference in the carer’s attitude and appearance in our discussions as she had lost the anxiousness and helplessness that she had previously portrayed whilst discussing her sisters situation.
Additional project outcome
Carers and Befrienders will feel continuity through engagement and support at monthly meetings for tea, coffee and chat. People will report Group Befriending is supportive and has enriched their social networks.
We have held 12 befriending gatherings with a total of 160 people attending with 133 of those being carers. There have been five presentations and two talks. Carers have reported how beneficial it is to network with other carers in an informal setting whilst gaining support and information that helped them in their caring role. We sent out a questionnaire to all the people who attended these gatherings. All responses were very positive reflecting the importance of social networking. When I first met this carer she was attracted to the befriending project and wanted to find out more information about becoming a befriender to offer support to other carers. From discussion she was also aware of her own vulnerability as a carer. She started attending the monthly gatherings where she met other carers and some befrienders and listened to the talks and presentations being offered. We also gave her some information that was pertinent to her caring role. From attending the gatherings and the information she gained, it has given her the confidence to approach an organisation that has helped her immensely within her caring role and also given her an opportunity to apply for a volunteering role which suits her and finds rewarding. From attending the gatherings it has enriched her social networks and allowed her to engage with appropriate services in supporting her individual requirements. A couple of quotes from her about the gatherings are, Its informality, it is well organised by the facilitators. A platform through which befrienders and carers have the opportunities to exchange views, support each other, exchange their concerns in a social, safe environment. The co-ordinators/facilitators are very good at what they do, so professional yet with a lovely informal approach/support. That is how I remember my first meeting and I am where I am now thanks to them. I have received the right information catering for my individual needs which has boosted my confidence a great deal. I do not feel isolated, always look forward to the befriending meeting (wish it was held more than once a month). A warm environment and well organised. I am very grateful for the coordinators as they care a great deal about users using the facilities.