Time to Live Midlothian Short Breaks Fund
A story by VOCAL Midlothian Carers Centre
We provided grants directly to carers living in Midlothian, to plan and pay for a short break of their choice.
What Time to Live Midlothian Short Breaks Fund did
We have funded 30 carers to take breaks this year.
We have a dedicated support worker who can provide support to carers who find applying challenging, this includes solution focused questioning to identify what difference a break might make and what needs to be in place to achieve that difference, support with research, support with completion of an application form and support to arrange the break once a grant has been received. This support helps to reduce barriers making it easier for those least likely to access support to apply.
Decision making process:
We have a clear and simple application form that carers can complete on their own or with support. The decision making panel meets on the last Wednesday of the month and consists of 2 carers, and two representatives from health and social care. Decisions are made on the day and we have arranged for VOCAL's finance officer to work from our office on the day of the panel so that cheques can be sent out timeously.
Promotion of the fund:
We promote the fund through a range of methods. It has prominent position on the home page of our website and it has been mentioned on our Facebook pages, newsletters and e-bulletins. We have been promoting the fund to a wider range of professionals including people who are ‘hard to reach’ – e.g. people accessing the Joint Mental Health Team, Treatment After Cancer and people caring for someone with a drug and alcohol addiction, as well as community groups.
For some carers from ‘hard to reach’ groups the application form has also acted as a useful tool to enable them to reflect and share their experiences of caring. We have also been successful in an application to the Integrated Care Fund (Midlothian Council) for a further £40,000 of direct funding for carers to apply for short breaks which complements the Time to Live funding and offers further choice and options to carers supported by VOCAL's Wee Breaks service.
He was supported to successfully apply for funding for football tickets for a day out with son which he described as 'brilliant', 'a fantastic day out'. Focusing on his own needs has enabled the carer to better manage his caring role, giving himself permission to do his own thing and focus on what he gets from his breaks rather than why he should not do something.
The carer was supported by the Joint Mental Health Team to complete the application, following links developed with this team. The carer reported feeling much more relaxed and less stressed about his caring role, and as a result better able to cope with his caring responsibilities.
We have also participated in professional forums for both Social Workers and Occupational Therapists and contributions to NHS groups looking at redesigning a local fund for people with Progressive Neurological Disease and the re-provisioning of the main care home in Midlothian.
In February 2016 we launched the Wee Breaks Midlothian report at an event with key health, social care and local community groups which was an opportunity to highlight Respitality developments to partners. In April 2016 we published the findings of the Midlothian Carer Survey 2016 which highlighted short breaks as the main priority for the future for carers in Midlothian.
The survey also highlighted some of the challenges carers face in taking time for themselves and this was presented as part of a wider report to the Integrated Joint Board in August 2016. Feedback from this Integrated Joint Board presentation: 'What a good presentation yesterday to the Integrated Joint Board . . . It was interesting to see how many members of the Integrated Joint Board were nodding enthusiastically . . .'
Wider evidence of the improved understanding can be found in Midlothian Council's Strategic Plan which highlights the Wee Breaks service and the need for continued investment in different models of short break services for the future.
What VOCAL Midlothian Carers Centre has learnedSuccessful partnerships with local health, social care and community groups is key to increasing awareness about the fund, a focus on hard to reach carers has led to a noticeable increase in referrals from mental health and addiction teams.
The panel is made up of carers and health/social care professionals who give their time free of charge. In order to maximise attendance at panel we have implemented a 'stand-by' option where 1-2 additional staff are trained and occasionally attend panel if needed.
Support and greater awareness for professionals supporting the carer to complete the forms (eg. in providing complete budget breakdowns or having an outcome focused conversation with the carer) has led to few applications being returned due to lack of information.