Time to Live for Mental Health Carers
A story by Support in Mind Scotland
We provided grants directly to carers who care for an adult who have serious mental health problems and mental illness.
What Time to Live for Mental Health Carers did
We ran 2 rounds of applications in January and April. Carers applied using a standard application form and each form had to be supported by a Support Worker who knew the carer and could help them complete the form. For those who did not have a Support Worker we ensured we identified someone who could help them. Comprehensive guidelines were distributed to carers' organisations for Support Workers to use.
A small panel met to assess applications against set criteria and decisions were communicated by letter to the Carer and the Support Worker. An agreement was signed by those receiving grants, but for young carers this agreement was with a support agency and not the young person. We advertised the fund through all of our carers' networks and across our membership, and through our own services. We also tried advertising in local papers, however this did not bring direct enquiries.
Over the year we adapted the assessment process to reflect the increase in applications and to try to build in more fairness and we allocated a proportion of applications to each panel member but asked for a more in-depth analysis of the form.
A couple went away from their busy noisy street for a holiday in a remote rural area: "It was a breath of fresh air. I had a lovely break with my husband who I care for and who has severe depression. I am finding it difficult to leave home as he doesn’t like crowds. I am with him all the time. The break was amazing. Away from home having everything done for you. Quiet walks in the countryside. No distraction from busy streets or noisy neighbours. A tonic for my husband and myself.
A couple went to stay with family: "There were some stressful elements with some new activities but there was a vast improvement in my partner's willingness to try and engage with others and go outside. While there, family members convinced us to try going on runs and to the gym and this was a mega-positive move in the right direction and something we are continuing since returning."
2 sisters went away together with one of the sister's son's who has serious mental illness. The carer said afterwards, It was very relaxing to have a change of environment and a change of routine. I was able to talk to my sister face to face about my son's illness which was helpful too as I do not see her very often.
We went for walks that were lovely and therapeutic. Most of all it was good not to worry about my son as he also had company. It helped him get up in the morning and having company for a few days improved his conversations and interactions with people.
A carer (75 years old) of an adult son with schizophrenia asked for funding for an art class: "I go to the classes twice a week and that is my lifeline. Apart from painting the social aspect is a great help. So it feels like my break has already started and will last. It is all positive. One artwork will be exhibited in a local exhibition this summer. I am calm and able to cope."
What Support in Mind Scotland has learnedWe learned that the majority of families still prefer breaks and activities that involve both carer and cared for. This was an early lesson but it has endured through all rounds. This emphasises for us the importance of family relationships to this group of people for whom normal family life is so limited by mental ill-health.
We also learned that people experience stress in different ways and balance this with other benefits. A number of our recipients spoke of stress arising from taking part in something new, or having to put in place new arrangements; but the benefits to them in other ways made up for this.
We learned that the breaks that seemed to have longer lasting benefits were those that involved activities, and classes as carers felt that the regularity of having something to look forward to and plan for was really important. This aspect of the breaks has given us food for thought in terms of sustainability for future rounds and so we have changed our approach to encourage people to think in this way about what would make the most difference for longer.