A story by VOCAL Midlothian
This project offered unpaid carers the opportunity to get some time away from their caring responsibilities by giving them access to a range of free group and individual activities, which were designed to provide some breathing space and reduce the pressures on their caring role over the festive period.
What Surviving Christmas did
The project offered a range of individual and group activities around the festive period. Group activities included the following: Mindfulness/relaxation sessions, Christmas coffee morning, festive craft workshop, Surviving Christmas Workshop, Carer’s Christmas quiz, Festive high tea and bingo night and group outing to the Christmas pantomime.
Individual activities included the following: Eat Out to Chill Out – carer’s lunch voucher for two, Spectacle of Light, Christmas light show, Coffee & cake vouchers for two, Cinema passes and Mining Museum Tours. The majority of the activities took place at various venues across Midlothian with carers travelling to East Lothian for the Christmas pantomime.
Group activities, such as the surviving Christmas workshop, craft session and coffee morning took place in VOCAL’s premises, while other group activities such as mindfulness/relaxation therapies, quiz and carers high tea and bingo were online activities. The programme of activities was open to all carers who were registered with VOCAL, as well as a companion or the person(s) they cared for.
The project was targeted at those carers with the most substantial caring roles and those not currently benefiting from direct support from the local authority. The emphasis was on targeting hard to reach carers, who did not traditionally identify themselves as carers or did not fully understand the full range of support that was available to them.
VOCAL’s Wee Breaks funding criteria was applied to the allocation of breaks and priority was given to carers who were in the greatest need. There was great demand for all our activities and, as a result, we had to limit the number of tickets or activities that carers could sign up for.
Information about the programme of activities was promoted through VOCAL newsletters, social media channel and our weebreaks.com website. Carers were able to self-refer and note an interest in the activities that were available on the website, while others were made aware of the break activities through the work of our Carer Support Team and other care professional working in the Midlothian area.
The project was complimented and enhanced by the other VOCAL services, as a number of carers went on to use the broader range of services that VOCAL had available. This included one-to-one support, completion of Adult Carer Support Plans, emergency planning, welfare benefits advice, counselling and much more. Many of those who participated in the project activities were new carers and in this sense, the Surviving Christmas project was a good way of getting people to identify as a ‘carer’ and introduce them to the other areas of support that were available.
We had hoped to deliver more of our group activities in person, within our carers centre, but this was limited due to the emergence of the Omicron Variant and the restrictions that were put in place over the winter period. Despite these restrictions all activities went ahead with some group activities being delivered digitally, rather than in person. This did not appear to impact on attendance with all events well attended. In fact, on two occasions digital delivery allowed us to offer more places than we would have been able to if the sessions had been held in our centre.
The main Creative Breaks priority we contributed towards was increasing carer’s choice and control and providing more opportunities for carers to enjoy life outside their caring role. The range of activities offered by our Surviving Christmas project were shaped and influenced by carers, as each carer who participated in the previous year’s project had been given the opportunity to complete an evaluation form and put forward ideas and suggestions for this year’s project. This ensured the project was a great success and delivered activities and support that were in line with carers needs .
What VOCAL Midlothian has learned
As with previous years, we learned a number of things by running our Surviving Christmas Programme, particularly in the midst of the Covid pandemic and ongoing restrictions that were around. This included: having a Plan B to enable us to change the delivery methods of our activities should tighter restrictions be imposed. Provide a number of online activities to enable vulnerable individuals and those shielding to participate in activities from the safety of their own home. The benefit of working closely with other agencies to help identify hard to reach families and individuals who did not consider themselves to be carers.
How VOCAL Midlothian has benefitted from the funding
Creative Breaks funding is of great benefit to VOCAL and enables us to: Purchase tickets, vouchers in greater quantity and, as a result, negotiate discounted prices or free/donated breaks. Provide a range of one-off, day attraction type breaks, which offers greater choice and variety for carers. Introduce carers to the idea for taking a short break from caring and attract new carers to our service. Develop strong partnerships with local businesses and local service/break providers. Strengthen the reputation of VOCAL as a carer support organisation and short break provider within the Midlothian area.
75 carers will have had a break from their caring role by participating in our Surviving Christmas Project. 60 cared for adults will have benefited from the support and activities that are offered. 80% of carers will have reported an improvement in their social wellbeing.
We distributed more than 200 tickets/break places through our Surviving Christmas Project, benefiting 79 carers and 63 cared for people. Some carers benefited from two breaks/activities, while others benefited from just one activity. 78% of carers who completed the service evaluation reported an improvement in their social wellbeing.
The carer a 59 year old man who cared for his 82 year old father and 46 year old brother, both of whom had bi-polar conditions and experienced regular periods of depression and anxiety. The carer’s father needed care and assistance on a daily basis, as he also suffered from poor memory and restricted mobility. He also provides a similar range of support for his brother, including shopping, cleaning, medication, transport and emotional support. The intensity of the caring role meant the carer got very little time to himself and he had lost contact with many of the friends and activities he was once involved with. The carer found the Christmas period very difficult and was looking for ways to get his father and brother out of the house, while also allowing him to do something different, get a change of environment and enjoy some quality time with them. The carer had been registered with VOCAL since January 2021 and had been given previous assistance with benefits as well as completing an Adult Carer Support Plan. The carer received tickets for the local Christmas light show, as well as a voucher for a guided tour of the National Mining Museum. Both of these activities were shared with his father and brother and allowed all three of them to get out together. In his service evaluation the carer described how beneficial the breaks had been for him, his father and brother. It had been a long time since they spent some leisure time together and he felt that it had improved their relationships, brought them closer together and improved their general health and wellbeing. He also stated that the breaks had given him the incentive to get involved in other activities organised by VOCAL and he now got out more regularly and had more opportunities to enjoy some relaxing time away from his caring responsibilities.
75 carers will have had a break from their caring role by participating in our Surviving Christmas Project. 60 cared for adults will have benefited from the support and activities that are offered. 80% of carers will have reported improved confidence in managing their caring role.
We distributed more than 200 tickets/break places through our Surviving Christmas Project, benefiting 79 carers and 63 cared for people. Some carers benefited from two breaks/activities, while others benefited from just one activity. 76% of carers who completed the service evaluation reported improved confidence in managing their caring role.
The carer a 67 year old married woman who provided care for her 70 year old husband who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's/dementia, diabetes and kidney disease. The carer’s husband was frail and had significant cognitive restrictions, which made it very difficult for him to function and he needed a great deal of support from his wife. The carer attend to all her husband’s care needs and as a result had very little time to herself. She felt suffocated by her surroundings and caring role and wanted the opportunity to get out and spend some quality time with her husband doing things that they used to do. The carer received tickets for the cinema and the carer’s lunch – Eat Out to Chill Out. The carer shared the lunch voucher with a close friend, while another family member looked after her husband. However, she was able to take her husband along to see a Christmas movie with the support of another family member. The carer had been registered with VOCAL since June 2021, had completed an Adult Carer Support Plan (ACSP) and received a range of other support from VOCAL including welfare benefits, power of attorney advice and attended a dementia information surgery. In her service evaluation the carer described how good the breaks had been and how much her and her husband had enjoyed the opportunity to go out to the pictures (like the old times) and enjoy some precious time together. She went on to say how much she also enjoyed going out for lunch with her good friend and now realised how important it was for her to get time to relax, away from her caring role. She said the breaks had made her realise she could not sustain her caring role without a regular break and the support of her friends and family and she now felt more confident and better able to continue supporting her husband.
We distributed more than 200 tickets/break places through our Surviving Christmas Project, benefiting 79 carers and 63 cared for people. Some carers benefited from two breaks/activities, while others benefited from just one activity. 75% of carers will have reported improved physical and mental wellbeing
We distributed more than 200 tickets/break places through our Surviving Christmas Project, benefiting 79 carers and 63 cared for people. Some carers benefited from two breaks/activities, while others benefited from just one activity. 78% of carers who completed the service evaluation reported an improvement in their physical and mental wellbeing.
The carer a 52 year married woman who provided care for her 72 year old mother who had a range of medical conditions including restricted mobility, asthma, arthritis and a hearing impairment. The carer also provided a substantial amount of care for her 29 year old son who had ADHD and a learning disability. The carer worked full-time but had been forced to reduce her hours of work due to her caring commitments and a deterioration in her own health. The carer spent a significant amount of her week looking after her mother and son and provided support in a range of areas, including shopping, house work, medication, personal hygiene as well as providing a great deal of emotional support. She received no statutory support for her mother or son and found it extremely difficult to provide the level of care that was required. The level of stress and fatigue experienced by the carer was having a negative impact on her own health and financial situation, as well as the relationships with her mother and son. The carer had been registered with VOCAL since 2021, had completed an adult Carer Support plan and used a number of other services that VOCAL had to offer, including welfare benefits support and counselling. The carer received tickets for the Christmas pantomime and the Festive lights show and chose to attend both events with her husband, mother and son. She wanted the opportunity to get out the house, have a change of environment and spend some fun and relaxing time with her family. In her service evaluation the carer reported big improvements in her health and social wellbeing, as well as confidence in her caring role. She reported that she thoroughly enjoyed her breaks and the opportunity to spend some quality time with her family. She went on to say “we received tickets for the panto in Musselburgh and the Spectacle of Light in Dalkeith and we enjoyed every minute of the shows. The theatre and the light show were fantastic and we would never have been able to afford to go to these events without the support of VOCAL”.