A story by MECOPP Gypsy/Traveller Carers' Project
We organised a small programme of Short Breaks (Family Days and Residentials) for Carers and those being Cared For, from the Gypsy/Traveller Community.
What Time Out did
Over the last year we have delivered five residential events (in Glasgow, Pitlochry, Perth, Aberfoyle and Callander) and three Family Days (one in Oban and two in Edinburgh). Suggestions for activities and sessions came from participants and this year included tapping therapy, laughter workshop, confidence building, comedy, forum theatre, colour therapy, music, weaving, pampering, museum visit, swimming, massage, reflexology and a ukulele lesson!
In February 2015 we also held a 'women only' fire-walk as part of the first Audacious Women's Festival. Our three outreach staff in local areas initially advertise residentials and Family Days by speaking to people and handing out a flyer to all those we work with in our three target areas (Argyll & Bute, Perth & Kinross and the Lothians). A list of participants expressing an interest is kept, along with a waiting list for those from other areas of Scotland. Due to changing family circumstances and ill-health there are always last minute changes and in most cases those on the waiting list are eventually offered places.
By far the most popular way of advertising and recruiting participants has been by 'word of mouth' within the Gypsy/Traveller community, perhaps one person attending and then next time bringing along their mother, son or sister or simply another individual who they know is in need of a rest or break. The age range at residentials has been from 16 to 81.
The Family Days are primarily for those unable to attend residentials, either because of young children, other commitments or simply because an overnight stay it is not for them. The Day events are also held to encourage those who don't know what a 'short break' is to come along, meet other participants and find out more about what kind of activities are available. In keeping with requests from this minority ethnic community all activities are open to carers and those being cared for, with the majority of preferring to take a break with the person they care for.
Another participant said the weaving workshop had reminded her how much she used to love knitting. As soon as she got home, she bought herself some knitting needles and some wool and got started!
The whole family were so impressed they ended up staying on to attend a concert featuring music and songs collected from Gypsy/Travellers across the UK.
What MECOPP Gypsy/Traveller Carers' Project has learnedOne unexpected outcome was that some carers benefited even if they didn’t take part in an event. One carer initially attended the first night of a residential with the person she cares for, however in seeing how relaxed and at ease her mother was, the carer decided to take the opportunity to go home after just one night and spend quality uninterrupted, time with her partner instead.
The carer fed back that this was the first time she has been able to be away from her mother, as she knew that she was okay and had lots of support around her.
One challenge is having to say to carers, especially from the areas we don't work in, that they will have to go on a waiting list. This is a sign of success but it is still hard. There are always so many last minute changes, which we are now better able to manage, that many on the waiting list do eventually manage to attend.