My Choice: Any Time, Any Place, Any Where
A story by Connecting Carers
A creative and exciting wellbeing related activity programme for unpaid carers to provide bite size short break opportunities. Activities will be broad, appeal to different interests, creative and be delivered both online and in person.
What My Choice: Any Time, Any Place, Any Where did
The project was for the benefit of carers of all ages and activities were offered on line and in person across the Highland region. We wanted Carers to have choice and flexibility as we are aware the caring role is a busy one and finding time to access a short break can be difficult.
We delivered a range of wellbeing activities; photography, creative writing, yoga, mindfulness, art sessions, ranger led walks, spa sessions, craft sessions, kart racing, outdoor activities and 2 peer support groups. Carers were informed of the activities by a variety of means included newsletter, social media, email, social groups etc in addition to our targeted one to one sessions where we introduced short break opportunities and encouraged carers to participate.
Connect is an online peer support group for Carers who experience disability or long term conditions with an activity, we have started to include information sessions after requests to introduce hosts with lived experience across a variety of topics.
Our second peer support group includes a craft element, again we offered a variety of different crafts to appeal to the wider audience including diamond painting, needle felting, paper flower making and quilt making. The activities were delivered by both external facilitators and our own staff. Many of our team were keen to join the support groups either to brush up on their craft skills or deliver wellbeing strategies.
What Connecting Carers has learned
Developing new short breaks activities: the project provides an opportunity for us to work with new facilitators and experience different opportunities. The disabled carer support group led us to thinking about what else we could offer, this led to conversations around physical activities delivered on line for all abilities and a new partnership was formed with Highlife Highland leisure.
Dealing with unexpected challenges or opportunities: we have done a lot of work to raise awareness of short break opportunities available to carers, especially given the geographical challenges we face. We are offering what we have been asked to deliver however the engagement is not there. There seems to be 'social anxiety' after Covid along with the lack of opportunities to access replacement care.
How Connecting Carers has benefitted from the funding
The fund enables us to provide a range of flexible short break activities. We have developed new partnerships as we can try new activities from a range of areas in Highland. The fund has supported the activities of a new disabled carers group which we continue to learn and grow with. We recognised from supporting our male carers there was demand for their own group and we will be piloting an online peer support group alternating with in person sessions. The project taught us we needed additional tools to administer our activities and recently we added an Events bolt on to our website, this has made registering for activities much easier for Carers and makes some processes automatic.
Carers will have more opportunities to engage with our service, meet other carers, feel supported and learn new skills and improve their wellbeing through creative activities
We created over 1000 opportunities for Carers to access a short break either on line or in person across the Highland region. We offered 11 Ranger led walks, 6 photography sessions, 25 mindfulness sessions, 4 creative writing sessions, 4 art sessions, karting sessions, spa sessions and monthly Disabled Carer support group sessions which included activities and themed lived experience discussions. The craft support group was attended by 152 Carers. We delivered in terms of opportunities however experienced lower numbers than anticipated. We surveyed carers and 'lack of time', 'lack of alternative care' and 'feeling overwhelmed' were some of the areas identified for being unable to participate.
Connect is an online peer support group for Carers who experience disability or long term conditions. Prior to the groups formation Carers did not have their own platform, did not have a voice or felt alone. Initially it was peer support with a wellbeing activity but has developed by Carer request to include coping with chronic pain and managing fatigue delivered by facilitators with lived experience. 'The group being on line was essential for me to be able to attend. Not only because of my own health, but also meant I didn't need to travel (and the extra time that would have taken) nor get anyone else in to cover the caring responsibilities I had during the session' 'Thank you for arranging these sessions. It really helps reduce the feelings of isolation and stress and is so good to talk to others in similar situations. I'm enjoying different facilitators attending and experiencing their different techniques'. 'Knowledge is power in healing this would be so welcomed for my self care'
Carers will report to us they feel more supported from our service and note the benefits of being able to access the activity programme.
Over the project period we have engaged with Carers through surveys, evaluation forms, newsletters, introduced a new Events system to make it easier to sign up for activities. We have revamped our social media and introduced a rolling 'what's on next week', introduced a monthly events e-bulletin. We have introduced Communications Champions to support information reaching all teams in the service. This is in addition to providing information at first point of contact and when delivering one to one support. Our most recent survey in June 23 confirmed we are delivering the range of short break activities requested by Carers and offering opportunities online and in person and over a range of times and days. Depending on the activity we ask Carers how they are feeling at the beginning and again at the end of the activity and carers consistently score higher in terms of their wellbeing after participating.
Craft Carer Support Group: The group meets online and is usually over a 2 hour period. Crafts are identified and posted out in advance of the session. We organise, create the craft during the session with the carers and often other members of the team will join to chat. Many of our rural carers have an opportunity to join as it is online and this would not be something they would usually attend due to distance and time needed to travel. The session is informal and each one offers a new skill in terms of creativity. The crafts can usually be completed at home at a time suitable to the carer. Friendships have grown out of the group, the craft making takes away the pressure to talk while providing a topic to talk about. There is no rush to finish. Many carers have found this relaxed approach appealing and look forward to attending. They report feeling less isolated, less anxious and improved wellbeing.