Carers Hub Lambeth led the way in the borough as the nationwide Carers Week got into full swing this month, celebrating the unpaid workers whose care to friends and relatives is equivalent to an estimated £119 billion every year.
Hub celebrations included visits to Eastbourne and Kew Gardens, rounded off with a barbecue at Woodlawns in Streatham featuring the band Soundminds. Committing to Carers UK’ Quest, to reach as many carers as possible, Hub staff (pictured above with carers) joined the Thames Walk on May 31.
The Hub also circulated local GP surgeries with specialist carers’ information packs. Herne Hill Road Medical Practice in partnership with its Patient Participation Group and Carnegie Library held an event in the library garden in the run-up to the Week.
Recognising the work of carers and their own health needs Chair of Lambeth’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) Dr Adrian McLachlan, said: “We want to make sure carers can access services from their GP or at hospital which support their mental and physical health. If you are a carer in Lambeth you can talk to your GP about the services available to you.”
It is estimated that 1.5 million people nationwide care for someone with a mental health issue and there were good will messages and a commitment to better support mental health carers locally.
Sue Field, Programme Director of the Lambeth Collaborative’s Provider Alliance Group (PAG) said the Collaborative recognises the importance of carers and the role they play in supporting people. “We are particularly keen in the Living Well Hub to understand how we can greater assist carers, and will be circulating a questionnaire to this effect in the next few months. We want to understand what information we can give and what practical support would be of assistance. We hope to share these plans to the Carers Forum in July and will have feedback on the website.”
Zoe Reed, Director of Organisation and Community, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (SLaM) who has recently taken over as SLaM lead for Carers said: “I’m looking forward to working with friends, family, supporters and carers of people who use the services across the Collaborative and recognise what a vital contribution they all make. Best wishes for a successful Carers Week.”
Fran Bristow, Programme Director for SLaM’s Adult Mental Health Programme announced that “we now have additional resources for family interventions for people with psychosis alongside additional care co-ordinator time in community teams.” She added that staff will be better able to work with families and to support carers, including completion of carers’ needs assessments.
Suzanne Jolley, Clinical Psychologist and Carer Support Project lead for Lambeth, said that the “Lambeth Promoting Recovery (PR) teams and the Social Inclusion Hope and Recovery Service (SHARP) have been running a new carer support service over the last year. Carers of PR service users are offered an assessment of their emotional and practical support needs, access to information and support groups, individual interventions to help with understanding psychosis and the impact of their caring role, and help to liaise with the team.
We are just starting a year-long evaluation of the service. Interested carers should enquire through the community mental health team or Carers Hub.”
Just over six months in post Sarah Bennett (who with Curtis Sinclair pictured, are the Hub’s Mental Health workers) hear of the day to day struggles that mental health carers face around issues such as stigma, confidentiality and information sharing and the fear of loved ones harming themselves. This is compounded by anxiety around plans to pool the funding from Lambeth Council that goes to the Carers Hub and disabled people and elders’ support. The vision is for a Social Care Hub that will be set up early in 2015. The design of the service is being co-produced and the deadline to feedback is fast approaching (see below).
Many carers of those with mental health issues fear that specialist services provided at the Carers Hub will be cut and leave them further isolated. “I feel it’s important to have specialist workers in the SC Hub who do understand mental health and all the associated challenges – something which was reflected in many comments at the Co-production meeting,” says Sarah.
Sarah also believes a “much more integrated approach between health and social care services is needed to meet carers’ needs more effectively and to identify carers at a much earlier stage in their caring journey, providing information, advice and support at the right times. As mental health exists in a state of flux it’s important that support is there when it is most needed.
“I think increased provision/more consideration of carers in GP’s, community mental health teams and on psychiatric wards would help with this. All too often services are developed with only service users in mind without recognising the inherent benefits for both service users and carers of providing something for carers. A more holistic view would bring improved outcomes for both.”
To complete the survey with someone on the phone, call the Carers Hub Enquiry Line: 0207 642 0038
A series of Evidence Summits will be held throughout July as part of the work NHS England and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) have committed to do. The RCGP as part of its ‘Supporting Carers in General Practice’ Programme’ and NHS England’s ‘Commitment to Carers’ (published May 2014) following consultation with carers, charities and partner organisations identifies eight priorities and 37 commitments that will help the NHS to deliver care and support carers have said they need.
Click here to read the NHS England’s Commitment to Carers
And click here to read more about RCGP Carer support