Banners, balloons and biscuits

Last week was Carers Week. It seems like every cause has an allotted day or week dedicated to them – this week is Small Charity Week.  Often support organisations are accused of working in silos, not talking to each other and not promoting themselves sufficiently to the people who need their help. Casting the spotlight on a particular cause is a great way of getting a message across and reaching out to people.

Our Carers Together project in Birmingham recruits volunteer mentors to support carers, both online and face to face. As a volunteer project wanting to extend our base of both volunteers and beneficiaries, Carers Week was an excellent opportunity to get out there. Carers are a particular challenge as they often don’t access services provided directly for them, but come into contact with services through the person they care for. Part of the purpose of Carers Week is to make people ‘Carer Aware’, that is to help people recognise that they form part of a large group of people in a similar situation, who have shared needs, that can be addressed if they access services.

With this in mind, getting us out there took us to three very different events:

Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Trust Carers Event

Things are changing around how mental health is perceived. There is still a lingering attitude that people who provide support for those with a mental health problem are not ‘real’ carers. Experience of our carers tells us something very different. The stresses of caring for someone with a mental health problem can put a lot of strain on a carer. This event was to encourage carers to look after their own mental health, and asking from support from Carers Together is an excellent way of doing this!

Chinese Community Centre Carers Event

This was perhaps the liveliest and most joyful carers event we have ever attended - starting with games, followed by presentations, prizes and a communal lunch. The large of group of carers who attended approached every part of the day with such enthusiasm we were compelled to join them. After a few disastrous practice rounds we did manage to secure first place in the balloon retention coxless pairs. The picture was taken on the starting line and I think we can all see the determination to win found in all semi-professional athletes. Well done to Amy Cui for organising such an excellent event!

Carer Aware Training Day, Moseley Hall Hospital

Birmingham community healthcare trust employs 5000 people and their ‘Carer Aware’ event is aimed at raising the profile and needs of carers amongst the staff of the hospital. One of the things we have noticed is that caring often falls on the family member who has worked in a caring profession. Although carers who have been nurses and other health professionals may have a particular aptitude for caring it doesn’t make it any less taxing, especially if you have to juggle your home caring responsibilities with a demanding caring role at work.

All the events were an excellent opportunity for learning about the different services available to carers, to meet carers and explain Carers Together to them. It’s clear to us that carers form a large community and we are beginning to feel like an important member.