Time to Be Just Us
A story by PKAVS Carers Hub
This project allowed PKAVS carers hub to build a programme of activities for unpaid carers of all ages and their cared for to access short breaks at a range of socially connected events that were delivered (face to face and virtually) throughout Perth & Kinross (P&K).
What Time to Be Just Us did
There was a window of opportunity when restrictions were easing slightly towards the end of 2020 that we could offer some face to face events but for obvious reasons the main parts of what we delivered had to be done virtually.
The face to face events we held were 2 social lunches/suppers with a Christmas theme that carers and their cared for attended. We booked out the whole restaurants that we used to deliver these and 36 carers and 20 cared attended these 2 Christmas meals.
Based on the overwhelmingly positive feedback we had received from carers who we had sent out a Kindness Bags to in Sept 2020 we were authorised by Shared Care to create Christmas Hampers for adult carers. We allocated a budget of £15 per hamper and hand delivered 150 of these to carers we knew had been through a pretty torrid time in the past year.
Similarly we we bought 175 £20 Love to Shop vouchers which were then included in our young and young adult carer Santa sacks that were given to young and young adult carers who we knew had the most intense caring roles and/or came from a family where we knew financially Christmas would be more of a struggle.
The day services team also created and delivered 80 Christmas Baskets to carers and their cared for who attend the day services and we budgeted £20 per basket. With the day services also being authorised to re-open in February 2021 we have also used some of the funding to provide entertainment to the cared for clients who attend the day services. This included getting the music man in for 2 hours most weeks and this were spread over different days so all clients who attended would get a chance to sing and dance along to him.
Finally and again with restrictions easing we were able to arrange and deliver a couple of day trips out for carers and their cared for.
Despite there having to be a lot of changes to what was originally planned and applied for I think we managed to still reach a lot of carers and their cared for albeit in a different way. The feedback we have received (Thank You cards etc.) give us reassurance that what we managed to deliver still had a positive impact on the wellbeing of those we supported.
What PKAVS Carers Hub has learned
I think the biggest thing we learned from this years award was developing new short break activities for carers. Clearly what we had initially applied for funding for couldn't be delivered and so we had to consider Plan B. Thankfully we had some evidence of the impact gifts packs could have for carers through the Kindness Bags we delivered in September/October. This positive response gave us reassurance that doing something similar over Christmas would likely have a similar impact....and it did. So although these couldn't be called a 'short break' as such given the restrictions we were facing at the time and what we knew were coming these gift packs proved to be very successful.
I think an added learning from these gift packs was because we only had a limited number of packs we could offer to carers we had to make sure we offered these to those who we felt were most in need. The staff teams were all asked to nominate a number of carers from their caseloads and to say why they felt they should get one of the packs. Although there is no doubt that we could have delivered double what we did but with the funding we had available we feel sure that those carers who did receive gift packs were those most in need. I think this is further evidenced through the positive feedback we received from the carers who received them.
Based on the findings from the original Kindness Bags and then followed up by these Christmas gift packs we have used this positive feedback from carers to try and source other funding to do more of these type packs now and as we head towards Christmas. This years award from Shared Care should (fingers crossed) be spent on the type of face to face events we applied for and so to also deliver gift packs needs additional funding. Based on the feedback from both the times we did these before we have used that to source small awards from a couple of local Rotaries to help support with these again this festive period.
How PKAVS Carers Hub has benefitted from the funding
I think there are a number of examples mentioned above that we can say we have benefitted from. We have been able to pilot a new service through the Creative Breaks funding which allowed us to move to Plan B and the gift packs when it became clear what we had originally applied for couldn't be delivered. This change in plan was undoubtedly a big success and something that we will now keep in mind to use within our service delivery going forward. I think for those carers who received these packs it no doubt made them think very positively about PKAVS carers hub and hopefully this will mean that they will access our services going forward and spread the word to other carers they know. As mentioned above the feedback we received from carers who received packs funded through Creative Breaks allowed us to use that as evidence of a positive impact for carers with other potential funders. This has meant we have received 2 other sources of funding from 2 local Rotary Clubs to do something similar, albeit on a smaller scale, to what we did last year. I think we maybe already knew this but what this past year has really evidenced is that it doesn't always need to be huge amounts of funding required that make a big difference to carers. The truth is each gift pack we sent to carers of all ages had around £20 maximum spent on the gifts contained within. However I think that the fact that carers saw that someone was actually thinking of them made a world of difference to them and this is something we will consider as we move forward.
Carers and their cared for will enjoy meaningful activities that will give both an opportunity to have life experiences that don't revolve around the caring role.
So there was a small window of opportunity from October to early December 2020 when things seemed to be improving and restrictions were easing. It was because of this that we were able to go ahead with the 2 Christmas meals for carers and their cared for. This involved us booking out a restaurant and providing 36 carers and 20 cared for access to a nice Christmas meal in 2 different venues. However the Young Carers Christmas Extravaganza couldn't go ahead and neither could the social lunch and supper we applied for. This was mainly because despite restrictions easing there were still tight limits on how many people could meet in doors and so this made these impossible to deliver. However through conversation with Shared Care Scotland we were able to create a Plan B that is detailed previously that, from the feedback received, managed to offer some emotional support to carers to let them know that they weren't alone and help was at hand.
Below are 2 examples of feedback we received from carers who had Christmas Hampers delivered to them unexpectedly. "I had a wonderful surprise when I arrived home this afternoon to find a lovely Christmas stocking filled with gorgeous gifts from PKAVS" "It was quite emotional to receive this at the house out of the blue especially considering the location of the house. I hope Santa found it without too much of a problem!" "I just wanted to say a huge thank you to everyone involved. It certainly gave me a huge boost to think others were thinking of me. Could you please pass this on to all concerned? It is so much appreciated" "Thank you just before Christmas I was expecting a parcel of catheters supplied for Hamish. When a brown parcel arrived I opened it and inside were not catheters but a wonderful stocking- a total surprise with a message that reduced me to tears" "On Christmas Day Hamish was upset because he had nothing to give me so I gave him the stocking which he gave to me. He was delighted- thank you again."
Carers and their cared for will feedback that attendance at these social events has helped prevent carer and relationship breakdowns.
So the feedback from the few face to face events we were able to deliver (mainly the Christmas dinners and a couple of day trips) was very positive. The feedback made mention of having a day out felt incredible after being stuck in the house for months, it was nice to talk to other people who were in the same position as they were, it was nice to change the relationship dynamic even if just for a day from carer and cared for to husband and wife. So I think the face to face events did help support carer wellbeing. The other activities we delivered which were predominately around gifts around Christmas time seemed to also help carers. The feedback we got from emails, calls and cards were all thanking us for thinking of them and how this nice surprise had helped give them a boost in how they were feeling. The day services re-opening also allowed us to give carers a break from caring even if restrictions and demand meant we could only offer 1 day a week initially. This break helped.
Again below are 2 examples of feedback we received that highlight how the supports we offered still had a positive impact on carers wellbeing and hopefully help alleviate possible carer breakdown. "Thank you so much for the Christmas stocking containing such a variety of thoughtful gifts. It was so unexpected and really uplifted me and raised my spirits. You do a wonderful job and I am grateful for your support and to know you are there if I need you, have a very happy Christmas and all best wishes for the coming year" Carer said “light up moment”, she focuses so much on getting it right for everyone else and with no-one to buy her a gift so it was a real joy to receive this. It moved her to tears when she looked at the gifts inside
Carers and their cared for will report feeling less stressed and more relaxed in the relationship with each other with the carer feeling better supported to continue in their caring role.
We didn't seek feedback from carers who received Christmas hampers and young carers who received Santa Sacks as it didn't seem the appropriate thing to do. However after the packages were delivered we did receive a large amount of Thank You cards, calls and emails all in the same vein as the examples mentioned in the 2 Outcomes above. Carers made mention of what a lovely surprise it was and that it had done wonders for their own mental health and wellbeing especially as some of them were going through a tough time. Remember these were delivered around the time when things were worsening again and another lockdown looked likely. We did do evaluations with carers who attended the day services and also went on the day trips. The day services re-opening was a huge positive for carers as it gave them a much needed break from caring almost on their own for 12 months plus. The entertainment provided helped enhance the experience for those attending. Similarly with the day trips away.
Carers (VS) had been through a tough time as a single parent during lockdown. There were concerns about the families physical and mental wellbeing, the children's schooling, money and jobs and feeling very isolated as much of the support network that had helped before was none no longer readily available. Christmas can be a difficult time for single parents anyway with them often facing financial restrictions and Christmas of 2020 was more worrying still due to a number of factors mentioned above. VS had focused on getting things right for her all as much as she could this Christmas but had no one to buy her a gift. The carer told us receiving the hamper was 'light up' moment for her and it was a real, genuine joy for her to receive her Gift pack. The carer said that she was moved to tears when she looked at the gifts inside and that just knowing that someone was thinking of her and what she was going through meant the world and made Christmas so much better than she thought it would be.