A story by MECOPP
MECOPP organised a programme of short breaks for carers and the cared for from the Gypsy/Traveller community in Scotland.
These breaks promoted positive well-being, reduced isolation, increased confidence and the potential to realise personal ambitions as well as increasing knowledge of carer support.
What Creative Companions did
We delivered two overnight residential's in Pitlochry and 3 family fun days In Perth, Oban and Edinburgh respectively. A total of 28 carers participated in the residential's: March/18 carers and September/10 carers. Overall, 10 participants were new to the residential experience (March/9 new participants & September/1 new participant).
This year, each residential had a primary focus supplemented by a range of additional activities. The focus of the March residential was forum theatre, an educational tool, designed to challenge behaviours and stereotypes by immersing the audience in real life situations. Directed by Mark Traynor, participants designed two scenes which were delivered to an audience of students from Dundee University. This has subsequently been performed by community members to education and nursing students at Dundee University to rave reviews and has also been included as part of the WOW Festival.
One participant reported using the techniques learned to manage a meting with her social worker. Therapeutic activities such as massage, hand and nail care and 'make-overs' were also available proving very popular. The focus of the second residential was creative writing with guest speaker, Margaret Bennet, leading a story telling session. This session was funded by the Scottish Book Trust as part of the additional resources we were able to secure. Author Leonie Charleton, delivered workshops on creative writing to generate stories for a forthcoming book.
Massage therapy was available throughout the day and craft workshops were delivered in the evening. The creative writing workshop had a profound effect on participants increasing confidence, cultural pride and individual esteem. Numerous activities were provided on the family fun days including massage, nail painting, face painting, mini-animal zoo, arts and crafts, tarot readings, tin-smithing, virtual reality experiences and henna painting.
Short breaks were promoted via our outreach staff in Perth & Kinross, Argyll and Lothians with most referrals coming via word of mouth, This was particularly effective in reaching new participants.
What MECOPP has learned
As previously reported, we have benefited immensely from being able to draw on both other project resources and external support. This has generated significant additional value to what we have been able to deliver to the benefit of the community. This has reinforced the need to continue to develop good links with other partners to broaden the support available overall.
One issue that has generated considerable thought within the team has been how to manage demand from carers residing in other local authority areas not funded through the grant, particularly if other family members are able to attend. The team are currently developing ways to ensure project eligibility is fully transparent and conveyed to the community. Options being considered include a regular newsletter and meetings with the project coordinator.
An additional challenge has been to secure the preferred location for the delivery of the residential's. For example, our original intention had been to deliver a camping residential as this had been identified as a specific preference by carers. However, due to demands on the site, particularly in peak booking times, this was not possible and an alternative had to be found. It is the project’s intention to remedy this this year.
How MECOPP has benefitted from the funding
As in previous years, the funding has enabled MECOPP to consolidate and continue to develop its work to support Gypsy/Traveller carers across Scotland. This is the only provision of its kind in Scotland, without which, the community would not have access to breaks which recognise and respond to the specific difficulties they face, eg. lack of trust and confidence in mainstream providers. Participation by community members has also increased confidence in accessing other forms of support to enable them to take short breaks, for example, the team are keen to explore accessing 'Time to Live' grants to enable a group of carers (individually funded) to pool their awards towards a group break. The grant has also enabled MECOPP to continue to develop its presence and role as a trusted community intermediary, evidenced by the increased numbers of carers and cared for participating in this year’s project. The project has also provided a ‘pathway’ for carers to become involved in other aspects of the team’s work, for example, we anticipate that the creative writing workshops will continue to be represented within our arts development work and specifically, within the annual Gypsy/Traveller and Roma Arts, History and Culture Month which takes place in June. The funding has also enabled the organisation to develop new links with other community based supports and organisations who had not previously worked with Gypsy/Traveller communities, eg. Hope Kitchen in Oban and the Scottish Book Trust.
75% of participants will report decreased levels of stress/anxiety by the completion of the planned activities, 90% of participants will have experienced a therapy taster or well-being-related workshop and 25% of participants will actively seek to access local well-being services.
The activities delivered through both the residential's and the family fun days were designed to improve mental well-being and to promote understanding and awareness of the need for self care. In addition to a range of therapeutic activities which are always popular, the inclusion of 'forum theatre' and writing/story telling workshops provided a specific focus which increased levels of confidence and self esteem for participants to draw on in their daily lives. For example, one carer reported using the skills she had learnt from taking part in the forum theatre activity to successfully manger her anxiety in a meeting with her social worker Our evaluation evidences that our targets were achieved with 80% of residential participants reporting decreased stress levels (evaluation method body mapping), 100% of all participants experiencing a therapy/well-being workshop and 25% accessing community supports, eg. accessing PKAVS complementary therapies voucher scheme.
The Argyll worker has formed strong links with a local charity and Foodbank, New Hope, based in Oban. Through these links, New Hope were invited to the Argyll Family Fun Day to cater the event and to promote the work they do in the local community. Prior to the Family Fun Day, the worker would make referrals, on behalf of carers, to New Hope for food parcels, clothes and other assistance as appropriate. Following the event, it was noted that families began to self refer to the service and that there was a notable increase in confidence within the community to access support from New Hope independently. A recent meeting with the New Hope manager revealed that the Gypsy/Traveller community in Argyll now made up approximately 50% of their referrals. Carers from the community were able to access practical support such as emergency food parcels, clothing, bedding, etc. as well as emotional and spiritual support to sustain their caring role. New Hope continue to be a great source of support to carers from the Gypsy/Traveller community in Argyll and worked jointly with the carer development worker to set up a weekly group and to host an event as part of the Winter Festival attended by carers from the community. The support provided by New Hope has enabled carers to reduce their stress, anxiety and isolation.
80% of participants will report increased confidence to develop new skills and interests after trying a new activity with MECOPP. Approx. 30% of participants will not previously have participated in a MECOPP carer event and at least 30% of participants will participate in other MECOPP activities
The success of this outcome can be illustrated by the number of new participants (20 new carers/original total of 50 carers/actual total 70 carers) who participated in the short breaks project and went onto to participate in other MECOPP activities, eg. the delivery of forum theatre to Dundee University nursing and education students and the Perth Women Of the World (WOW) Festival. Staff feedback from the residential's also highlights the positive impact of the creative writing and story telling workshops on participants both increasing their confidence and self-esteem. Many carers expressed concerns at the outset of the workshop feeling that they were not 'confident' writers and would therefore not be able to contribute. However, with staff on hand to transcribe and the sensitive leadership of the facilitator, all participants were able to share their stories. Additional examples of carers developing new skills include the use of therapeutic 'apps' to promote emotional well-being.
Mrs S is a Gypsy/Traveller and a carer for her young daughter who has ASD. Prior to attending the residential held in March, she had had a very difficult and stressful few months. Her daughter's education had broken down and both her and her daughter's emotional well-being had suffered as a result. At the time of the residential, Mrs S was struggling to manage endless meetings with education officers and social workers and was under a great deal of pressure. Mrs S was reluctant to attend the residential feeling she could not spare the time but with the support and encouragement of other carers within the community and her family, she attended and took part in the forum theatre activities. Mrs S feedback that she was pleased she had attended the residential break as it gave her 'time out' from a very stressful situation and that she particularly enjoyed the forum theatre which was something she never thought she could do. After the residential, Mrs S had a meeting with the social worker which she was particularly nervous about as her support worker could not attend. However, Mrs S asked a friend from the community to attend another carer who had also participated in the forum theatre and together they created 'roles' for themselves to adopt during the meeting. Mrs S reported that this tactic helped her to manage her anxiety and to keep calm throughout the meeting helping her to articulate her viewpoint and needs to the social worker.
75% of participants will report greater confidence & knowledge to seek support in their local community independently of MECOPP. At least 60% will report increased awareness of carers rights inc. changes to social security in Scotland and 25% will actively seek to access local well-being services
This outcome was achieved in part, the exception being the percentage of carers having increased knowledge of changes to the social security system in Scotland. Examples of carers actively seeking support in their local community independently of MECOPP include the number of self-referrals to Hope Kitchen in Oban (50% of new referrals) and the number of carers wishing to access PKAVS complementary voucher scheme having experienced 'massage' at one of the residentials. One to one work with individual carers which continued throughout the residential's ensured that carers received information on support plans (ACSP) and access to SDS but an appropriate opportunity was not identified to discuss social security changes. However, this aspect is being taken forward as part of the team's broader work.
The Argyll worker has formed strong links with a local charity and foodbank, New Hope, based in Oban. Through these links, New Hope were invited to the Argyll Family Fun Day to cater the event and to promote the work they do in the local community. Prior to the Family Fun Day, the worker would make referrals, on behalf of carers, to New Hope for food parcels, clothes and other assistance as appropriate. Following the event, it was noted that families began to self refer to the service and that there was a notable increase in confidence within the community to access support from New Hope independently. A recent meeting with the New Hope manager revealed that the Gypsy/Traveller community in Argyll now made up approximately 50% of their referrals. Carers from the community were able to access practical support such as emergency food parcels, clothing, bedding, etc. as well as emotional and spiritual support to sustain their caring role. New Hope continue to be a great source of support to carers from the Gypsy/Traveller community in Argyll and worked jointly with the carer development worker to set up a weekly group and to host an event as part of the Winter Festival attended by carers from the community. The support provided by New Hope has enabled carers to reduce their stress, anxiety and isolation.