Short Breaks Edinburgh
A story by VOCAL
We provided grants directly to carers who live in Edinburgh and provide, on average, more than 20 hours of care a week.
What Short Breaks Edinburgh did
The Application process
VOCAL has developed a user friendly application pack containing an application form, guidance (including eligibility criteria and priority criteria) and an agreement. This pack is available on VOCAL’s website www.vocal.org.uk, on request from the Carers Centre and from a wide variety of partner organisations.
The application form supports carers to reflect on their best hopes for the break(s), the change/outcomes they hope the break will lead to and how to ensure the break will be successful for both them and the person they support. Carers may complete the form electronically or as a hard copy. Carers can do this independently or with support from one of VOCAL’s Carer Support Workers.
Applications are reviewed by the Panel on a fortnightly basis. Letters informing carers of the outcome of their application (with cheques where appropriate) are issued on the day the panel meet ensuring that no carer waits more than 15 days for information on the application.
Decision Making Panel
VOCAL’s Grants Panel is made up of 7 carers, from a variety of caring backgrounds, supported by VOCAL’s Carers Support and Training Manager. The panel meet fortnightly to review applications against eligibility and priority criteria. If the panel seek additional information to that provided on the form before they can make a decision then the Carers Support and Training Manager will contact the carer, gather information and bring it to the next panel meeting for review.
Promotion of Time to Live Edinburgh
VOCAL promotes Time to Live widely and regularly through a range of methods. VOCAL’s newsletter Carers News has a distribution of approx. 5000 carers and 800 professionals and features an article about Time to Live in every edition. There is a dedicated page on VOCAL’s website and home page features have run several times this year on www.vocal.org.uk and www.carerstraining.co.uk and VOCAL’s Facebook page .The opportunity to apply for a grant has also been promoted in VOCAL’s bi-monthly ebulletin which has a circulation of approx. 3000 carers and professionals.
Targeted promotion has also taken place with over 50 partners who have regular contact with carers being contacted by email with forms and details of how to apply. Information on the grants and the application process was also included in presentations reaching audiences totally over 800 professionals and approx. 100 carers and 300 members of the public.
In addition Carer Support Staff and volunteers working at the Carers Centre have worked in partnership with individual carers to identify need and to explore how a grant could be used to meet those needs.
Approximately 40% of all applications received by the panel were from carers who had no previous contact with VOCAL indicating that the promotion of the fund has been effective.
Any other developments
This year several long standing volunteers panel members retired due to their caring commitments so we have recruited, disclosed and trained 4 new members. In addition we have held a panel development day for all members of the panel, to review and develop, panel skills and processes. This positive day has led to one panel member taking on a leadership role in the panel and to another making a commitment to support the evaluation of the breaks.
We have also recruited and trained a volunteer to work with carers who seek support to complete application forms. This volunteer has over a year of experience volunteering in a carers support role and received additional training in Solution Focused Approaches and the Time to Live application pack.
Prior to the award of short breaks funding the carer was describing herself as highly stressed and reported this was affecting her mental health, her marriage and her ability to sustain caring. In addition she described that recent interactions with Social Work staff had reduced her confidence, this was exacerbated by the fact she had a very limited social life and felt very isolated.
The carer contacted VOCAL seeking general support and through contact with a Carer Support Worker identified that she needs to take a break from caring to help ‘recharge my batteries’ and to ‘reconnect to who I am’. The carer and Carer Support Worker spent some time together exploring what kind of break would allow the carer to achieve her chosen outcomes.
An application was made for a grant of £285 to cover the cost of a weekly creative writing class lasting three hours for 10 weeks at Edinburgh University and the cost of taxi fares to and from the class to limit the amount of time the carer is away from home as it would require two bus journeys and over an hour travel time in both directions otherwise.
The panel reviewed the application and awarded the grant in December 2013 and the carer began attending classes in January 2014. Prior to the commencement of the class the carer reported being ‘delighted ‘ with the grant saying she felt valued to have received the funding and excited to have the class to look forward to.
Having completed the 10 classes the carer reported feeling much less stressed as she had found the writing a really useful tool to relax, she described the writing as an escape or holiday from her caring role as it engaged her and allowed her to think about something else. She reported that her relationships with her husband had improved, in part as she was feeling better but also she was sharing her writing with him and this had given them a much needed experience to share. She felt that this combined with her improved mental health had made her caring role more sustainable.
The carer reported a general increase in confidence following the application process and the support she received from the Carer Support Worker with it and other aspects of her caring role. Several months after the course has been completed the carer continues to write and to experience benefits from the break.
With the support of a Carer Support Worker the carer made an application for £550 to provide a sitter service for 4 hours a week for 7 weeks to help him sustain his life outside the home while awaiting a regular respite service arranged following the Social Work assessment. On the application form the carer reported that he and his wife had always been very active and had traveled the world together. As a result of her illness ‘she no longer steps outside the front door and can’t be left alone’.
He explained this was frustrating for him as he was used to being very active and them having much to talk about he was missing the stimulation that they used to share. The carer reported feeling less patient than he used to be and hoped breaks would assist in this.
The application was successful. The carer was awarded a grant and supported to locate a private agency to meet his needs. After an initial assessment with the agency the carer used the service on an ad hoc basis so that he could take breaks flexibly. He used his time away from caring to do a number of different things including playing golf, going for a swim and meeting friends for coffee or lunch. Following the breaks the carer reported feeling a bit calmer, a bit more relaxed and feeling like ‘he is living’. He also stated that he was concerned if he had stopped engaging in his hobbies and getting out of the house he would not have started again.
After several months at home the carer’s wife has now moved to a carer home and the carer visits her most days. Since his wife’s move to the care home the carer has spoken of how helpful the grant was as it helped him to maintain his social networks and interests. He feels that if he had not done this he would be really struggling now he lives on his own and would be very isolated and lonely
The carer identified that improving her health and well-being was very important to her, she reported feeling under a lot of stress and suffering from exhaustion since her husband’s health had deteriorated. Her husband is often up at night and the carer has very disturbed sleep. Carer also spoke of her concerns regarding being able to attend to her own medical needs, as she had a fractured bone in her spine which required a hospital visit.
An application form was completed seeking a grant for £550 for sitter costs to be used on a flexible basis to give the carer breaks to address her own health issues. The carer was very anxious that her husband would refuse the sitter and that she would have to return the grant but, with support, decided to accept the grant awarded.
Following the receipt of the grant the carer reported that having a sitter in place had made a tremendous difference to her health and well-being as she now has a break to look forward to once a week. Knowing she is going to have a break really helps manage stress levels. Having a short break weekly has helped her to ‘recharge her batteries’ and she does not feel as tired as before although caring for her husband is still very hard work.
She had recently met up with a friend whom she had not seen for a year and this has helped to reduce her feelings of social isolation. Carer also said the sitter has been a really good match for her husband and she felt this had taken off some strain from their relationship. Carer was also able to attend a clinic for treatment for her back, which has significantly improved following the treatment.
Carer stated that another organisation following referral by VOCAL has now been in contact to offer a longer term sitter service twice a week and carer has decided to go for this. Carer said a few months ago she did not think her husband would even have accepted a sitter service, so she feels that this has been a positive step forward. She said that without the grant they would not have tried a sitter and she would have just struggled on believing that it would not work for them. She said ‘the people who deal with the grants made it so easy. I didn’t feel I was putting them out so it was ok to try’.
What VOCAL has learnedThe Short Breaks Fund has been a useful tool to encourage carers to self refer and to encourage professionals to promote VOCAL services. Approximately 40% of all applications received by the panel were from carers who had no previous contact with VOCAL. This tangible nature of the service provided and the speed at which it is offered seem to be attractive and provide sufficient motivation to engage with VOCAL. All of the carers who are new to VOCAL also receive a Carers Information Pack and many of them go on to use other VOCAL services such as counselling, training and one to one carer support.
We have found many of the carers applying for grants need support to manage the grant they receive especially where the carer wishes to use a sitter service to give them a series of short breaks. In the majority of cases this has been as a result of a lack of confidence or inexperience with using services prior to the grant. We have found it useful to have Carer Support Workers who can help carers to arrange their initial contact with a service or support carers to do this.
We have also found that many carers who have not used services e.g. cleaners, sitters or befrienders prior to the application for a grant have maintained these when the grant monies have been spent. This is usually funded by the Local Authority but on occasion has been through the carer’s or family members own funds.