Thank you for caring

Open Space discussion circle at Who Cares for the carers.

The day starts with some tough questions. Who should care?  Does caring begin and end in the family?  How much support should the state give? And what exactly is a carer anyway?  Such questions do the rounds as women join the circle of discussion on a sunny spring morning in Pilmeny Youth Centre. Then someone hits the nail on the head: most women do not see themselves as ‘carers’ at all so they never think of asking for help.

If the identity of the carer is not clear, the other main confusion is about what help is available. At the end of the day everyone agrees.  Unpaid carers need more support, more respite, more recognition and more information about what help they are  entitled to. That means making sure that professionals (particularly GPs) can tell them where and how to get help.  And, for good measure, how about a national campaign to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of all unpaid carers?

So what next? On paper there is already a good strategy. Just take a look at the Scottish Executive report, The Future of Unpaid Carers in Scotland published in 2006.  On the ground there is already a support network  – including a new ‘pathway’ system referring carers to specialist help in north and south Edinburgh.

But how many people know? After a day’s discussion (at Who Cares for the Carers on 14th March), our top six action points are all about campaigning for more information and better communication. And the one which gets most votes is “Campaign targeted at GPs so they know the single point of contact for carers support.”

An Open Space circle of women discussing 'who cares?'
Small group discussion

Now we need to reach the people who can turn such words into actions.  With lucky timing there are two opportunities this year. Our Leith Open Space discussion event for women has coincided with the 2009 Scottish Government review of support for unpaid carers  (in partnership with COSLA)  – as Malcolm Chisholm MSP told us when he dropped in to hear the day’s outcome.

At almost the same time, the UN Convention addressing obstacles to women’s equality (CEDAW) will be receiving the latest update on progress in the UK.  We are very grateful to Engender for the chance to add our findings to their report – support for carers is an essential part of securing a woman’s rights: to work, social security, adequate standard of living and the right to the highest attainable standard of mental and physical health.

Top 6 Actions

(Who Cares for the Carers?)

  • Campaign targeted at GPs so they know the single point of contact for carers’support. (9 votes)
  • Ensure the public are aware of the role/duty NHS Lothian has to them. (8 votes)
  • Respite and short break awareness campaign (7 votes)
  • One-stop shop (7 votes)
  • GP referral pathway (7 votes)

 

But first, a quick look back. Leith Open Space chose the theme of caring for a women’s event because caring is most often the responsibility of women in any community.  That point was made over and over during the day as women arrived late or slipped away early to meet other commitments.  (Unfortunately our budget could not stretch to a creche). In our workshop alone – among mothers, daughters, wives, voluntary workers and professionals – there were women who care for children, women who care for elderly relatives, and women who do both and hold down a paid job at the same time.

Caring, we all agreed, is such a natural part of daily life many (if not most) women never stop to question what they are doing, let alone ask for help. Yet for an increasing number of people (both women and men) caring for the needs of others fills every waking hour.   Interestingly it was a community policewoman who  commented on the need for more information about respite care.  That call to a house in the middle of the night, said Margo, may be a first call for help after years of isolation.

We would like to thank all of you who generously gave time and shared ideas and laughter, not least Maggie Havergal who facilitated the day’s discussion.  Thanks too for help to produce and distribute the report. We will take you up on it!   The action points and comments from workshops will now go to relevant organisations, agencies and individuals (employers, health professionals, politicians and policy makers).

[And thanks to Mike, Nick and Stewart who came in specially to serve lunch.]

Helen, Margo and Mary at the Open Space lunch break

Tea break: Helen Ewing, Margo Anderson and Mary Moriarty.

Those Top 6 Actions Again

  • Campaign targeted at GPs so they know the single point of contact for carers’support. (9 votes)
  • Ensure the public are aware of the role/duty NHS Lothian has to them. (8 votes)
  • Respite and short break awareness campaign (7 votes)
  • One-stop shop (7 votes)
  • GP referral pathway (7 votes)

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