Time to Live Midlothian Short Break Fund
A story by VOCAL - Voice of Carers Across Lothian
We provided grants directly to carers who live in Midlothian.
What Time to Live Midlothian Short Break Fund did
The application forms were revised during the course of the year, to improve user-friendliness and to ensure that the criteria and guidance were integrated into the application form. All applicants must have an outcome-focused conversation with a practitioner/support worker about the impact and difference the short break would have for them. This conversation also supports the planning of the short break in order to maximise the benefit for the individual carer for example, considering replacement care options, visualising what will happen and what needs to be in place to make the break successful.
The panel consists of representatives from health and social care representatives, VOCAL and two carers. The panel has been strengthened with the addition of a new member of the local dementia team, and substitute panel members have also been identified to cover annual leave etc. The chairing of the panel has been tightened to ensure that the meeting is focused and finishes on time. This has led to improved regular attendance at panel, and feedback from panel members has been positive.
The focus of promotion and advertising over the last year was on carers who are less likely to access support or less visible and under-served carers. 50% of applicants were new to VOCAL last year, 36% were male and at least 55% were caring for 20 hours or more per week. 30% of applicants were caring for someone with a mental health issue with the majority of referrals coming from NHS Lothian, Health and Social Care including Community Mental Health Team, but also included referrals from an established partnership with a local carers groups, based in one of Midlothian three areas of multiple deprivation.
Following the closure of Midlothian Council’s mental health short breaks fund, we closely managed applications to the Time to Live fund in the first six months in order to plan for an expected increase in applications in the second half of this year we saw applications to the fund increase by 50% in the last six months.
With no immediate family or friends available to help, Katie applied to the fund for a weekend away, saying that she was feeling very stressed and burnt out. During her weekend break Katie managed to get "a full nights sleep" for the first time in a number of years, and reported improvements in her physical and emotional health.
John has been caring for Helen for over two years, but prior to that he met with friends on a weekly basis, he has known them for over 50 years and described them as his "lifeline". He applied to the short breaks fund for an 8 week sitter service which would allow him to "completely relax and meet his friends knowing that Helen is ok".
What VOCAL - Voice of Carers Across Lothian has learnedThe difference the fund has made to your organisation as previously reported, the impact of having a fund directly for carers has enable VOCAL to successfully bid for further funding from Midlothian Council’s Integrated Care Fund. Although this fund has now been cut, it has allowed VOCAL to establish a commitment to meet this loss through other means – the fund has provided us with an evidence base on the impact of regular breaks from caring which we have used to support these negotiations.
The fund has also allowed us to grow and strengthen an independent volunteer panel, who have experience in assessing applications and provides us with a strong base to support any future assessments requests from the local authority (eg. applications to the social work resource panel) How you have attracted new carers and those less likely to ask for support.
VOCAL continues to build links and partnerships with local community groups and agencies, which has been key to establishing regular referrals to the service, and to the fund. Specialist services such as our Family Support Addictions service have also been successful in reaching carers who may not have otherwise accessed support from a carer organisation, and this service has also built strong links with substance misuse and additions services locally – which has widened our referral base.
Unexpected challenges during the first six months, we benefited from access to Midlothian Council’s ICF Short Breaks Fund to offset demand however this funding was withdrawn during the summer following funding cuts. We are working closely with the Council on proposals for an interim fund which would re-establish some aspects of the ICF fund, however this is likely to be focused on carers who meet the Council’s eligibility criteria of critical and substantial, and won’t have the same preventative focus.
These developments locally have led us to review the eligibility criteria and prioritisation of applications to the Time to Live fund going forward. We will seek to increase the number of beneficiaries from areas of multiple deprivation, those on means tested benefits and carers who haven’t had a break in the last two years whilst also considering the intensity of the caring role and seeking to maximise the total number of beneficiaries.