Complementary Therapies and Social Support Groups
A story by PKAVS carers hub
The project provides carers a regular and much needed break from caring. Social therapy groups are delivered throughout Perth & Kinross (P&K) offering carers a chance of a cup of tea & chat with other carers and PKAVS carers staff before enjoying a 45 minute complementary therapy of their choosing.
What Complementary Therapies and Social Support Groups did
PKAVS carers centre delivered a calendar of social therapy groups across 7 different locations within P&K twice a month. The localities these were delivered in were a mix of rural and urban areas so making accessing these groups much more accessible for carers who attended. The social therapy groups provided carers with a regular short break. They can come along to the group for a tea, coffee and chat with other carers in attendance. They can discuss their caring role with PKAVS staff in attendance if they so wish and we can try and source additional support if required. The group then also offers the carer a 45 minute social therapy of their choosing and a chance for another coffee and chat afterwards.
These groups are widely promoted and more often than not the spaces are fully booked. We did have to change the booking system though as often the same carers were booking on again for the next group which left little space for new carers to access these. The feedback from these groups was almost universally very positive. The feedback we received included these sessions made the carers feels more supported to be able to continue caring going forward (mutual benefit), the accessible venues and choice of therapies was welcomed (personalisation) and the benefits beyond the therapy of meeting other carers/PKAVS staff and the support that offered (adding value).
As with pretty much everything we offer now our biggest success is also our biggest challenge. The demand we are now experiencing through an ever increasing number of carers being registered for support means that often there was no space left at these groups. This meant carers were sometimes missing out on a regular break. To compensate for this we did start to invite carers along just for the social aspect (coffee and a chat). Sometimes they would also get a therapy if we had a last minute call off but often they wouldn't.
Unfortunately we no longer run these groups due to lack of funding. Carers, in early 2023, carers told us if they had to choose they'd prefer 3 more therapy vouchers as they give more choice in terms of time, venue and therapy. Our application for this was unsuccessful.
What PKAVS carers hub has learned
One of the learning from these groups was the impact the cost of living crisis is having on carers we support. Previously we had a suggested donation of £5 at these groups which, in better times, most carers who attended contributed to. This additional income obviously then helped with the running costs of the project. However the suggested donation seemed to become a barrier to carers attending and as the donation amount fell we eventually decided to remove this as we didn't want it to be an obstacle for carers, who may have little else in the way of a regular short breaks, from coming along.
Another learning, which isn't unique to this service, is demand greatly exceeds what we can offer. We regularly had more carers want to attend these than spaces available. We did have to change the booking process so more carers could access these and to ensure it wasn't always the same carers booking on for the next session at the one they were at. This didn't seem fair as one 45 minute therapy session every 2 weeks doesn't seem a lot to ask for but we were left with no option given the demand we were experiencing.
We did have good examples of partnership working as we extended the locations and frequency of groups. A couple of third sector organisations and our partners at Perth & Kinross council provided us with these either for free or at a greatly reduced rate which helped with the overall costs of running the project. This was particularly helpful given the donations income reduced down to zero.
How PKAVS carers hub has benefitted from the funding
Without this funding these groups wouldn't run. Unfortunately that is what has happened for this year as we didn't apply for Creative Breaks funding to run these this year and we haven't been able to source other funding to keep these running I'm afraid. Without a doubt having these sessions running twice a month across 7 different locations increased awareness of PKAVS and our carers services with people and professionals in these areas.
Unpaid carers living in Perth and Kinross will be able to attend easily accessible social complementary therapy groups.
By running groups across 7 localities and more regularly than we had done previously we are sure that these groups were more easily accessible for carers. Even though we had to curtail the offer during the award period due to funding restrictions even when we were running at full capacity these groups were very well attended.
Carer B lives in a rural location in P&K. Although she had attended these social groups for a number of years she previously had to travel into Perth as that was were her nearest group ran from. The travel wasn't the biggest issue for her but rather the extra time she was away from home as she had to get someone to look after her husband whilst she was out. Starting a group nearer her home was 'perfect' for her as it meant she didn't have to miss out on the therapies as it was easier for a family member of neighbour to help out if she was away for a shorter time.
These sessions, plus the peer support and access to professionals they offer, will result in carers telling us they feel better supported about their own wellbeing and they feel better supported to continue in their caring role.
The feedback from carers across all locations about these social groups was all very similar. The most enjoyable part was the complementary therapy however having the chance to meet with other carers who live locally and to also get a chance to talk to staff from the carers centre and other professionals we invited along was also welcomed. Although the therapy sessions were a welcome 'treat' starting to build friendships with others who live locally and were facing similar challenges also helped the carer greatly. Being able to update staff about their caring role and finding out more about what support might be available also helped them cope with the challenges they were facing. Also having regular contact with staff and knowing how to contact the carers centre if things changed was also a great source of comfort carers told us.
This isn't a case study particularly about 1 carer but more a reflection on how these groups have helped carers across all the locations in which we delivered these groups. Feedback from carers across all groups mention how accessing these therapies has helped create friendships and peer support networks away from when the groups are being delivered that were hugely beneficial to them. Having someone they could meet up with and talk to at times when the groups weren't on had a positive impact upon all these carers.
Carers will continue to feedback that attending these social therapy groups, and the other supports available at these, gives them something just for them that they can look forward to, a chance to get out of the house and get a break from caring. It gives a chance to meet and make new friends.
Carers told us that it was nice to be able to access something special that was specifically for them. Many mentioned how the focus of attention is often on the cared for person and they can often feel invisible and unheard. Opportunities to come along to these complementary therapy sessions felt like a treat that was for them. As mentioned previously attending the groups also created peer support networks so there was still someone to talk to even during those weeks when the social therapy groups weren't running.
Carer J told us through her evaluation response that meeting carer C at these sessions had been a godsend to her. The 2 carers lived streets apart but had never met until they both attended the same group one month. The 2 carers have similar caring roles (cared for with dementia) and so formed a strong bond that has continued to grow. Both carers keep in regular contact to offer each other emotional support and try and meet for a coffee and chat during the weeks when these social groups aren't being delivered.