Monthly Archives: February 2020

Learning for living – A way for carers to gain skills.

matDid you know that there are around 7 million carers in the UK? Give or take many more hidden carers? Did you also know that around 1 in 5 carers leave their job to care and many more carers provide care for so long it is harder to get back into employment. Carers across the UK save over £150 billion for the economy and even if it was not about the costs, then it is certainly about valuing what carers do.

Often when I hear from unpaid carers, they tell me how difficult it is to develop skills for the future. Just the look off a carer’s face shows me and that their confidence is gone.

By the Way, I have done a Vlog on this.  You can view the video below.

It is not like they want to just leave the person they are caring for in order to work again, but there is a nagging feeling that carers are being forgotten in education and being unable to attempt a future for themselves.

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It is understandable that many carers worry about what will happen when they become a former carers. They worry that they have given so much time and dedication to that special person, that they have neglected developing skills for themselves.

I would like to mention it is not like no one is trying to help, there are often activities, advice and skill sessions from carer centers. I would like to praise those giving much of their time and energy to help carers find those skills and confidence to access work, but the pressure is still there.

Carers want to find skills for work that relates to their values. Carers want to be welcomed into a job market that understands the attributes of dedication, serving others, being there and a willingness to continue learning.

It just so happens that Carers UK (A leading national charity giving carers a voice) have been looking into how carers can develop confidence and skills that ca help with employment.

Carers UK understands the stigma faced by many carers who feel they are locked out of education and looked down upon because they are not doing what every other person is doing….that 9 to 5 job.

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The situation is that carers work all sorts of hours and carers would love a chance to develop more skills, but unpaid carers need the tools to help them access such skills.

A couple of days ago I tested an online application that teaches carers about developing learning skills, which can give more confidence to many carers seeking a way to make a future for themselves.

The online application is simple and easy to use. It does not take a moment to register and then you are on your way. The online application is called ‘Learning for Living‘ and I really hope carers understand the importance that there is life after caring, or even during caring.

If there is anything I can take from the application is its flexibility as you can come back to the application any time and it does not have to be done in one sitting. The application is well thought out and delves deep into the virtues of caring and relates  caring into developing skills.

You should be able to access the ‘Learning for living’ application below.

https://www.learning4living.org/

Some carers do not even think they have skills due to their caring role, but all that needs to happen are tools that explain to carers that they already can developed skills and it just needs to be awakened.

There is no escape, carers have to engage with technology and the UK seeks to develop its technology infrastructure more.  Us carers cannot be left behind and using such applications is certainly the future.

As a working carer, I was invited to Carers UK HQ and submit my views of the application The discussion raised several interesting aspects among carers and representatives and it was excellent to see Minister for Health & Social Care Caroline Dinenage attend, debate and listen to carers views.   I admired her compassion and determination to support the developments for unpaid carers.  

We all agreed carers have something to offer and even more to gain, even though carers have been giving so much all their lives.

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‘Learning for living’ gives carers that chance, we cannot sit back and hope opportunity comes our way, us carers need to take the chance and develop the confidence, understand our value and challenge the future.

Us carers have given so much to society, something that should be valued and treasured, it is about time we get to live for ourselves, its not selfish is it?

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Thank you for Carers who attended and Carers UK working hard to not only get carers that voice, but also the skills and a future.

Good luck on your caring journey.

Lewisham BAME MH Carer Forum January 2020

enteranceWelcome to the January update of the Lewisham BAME Mental Health Carer forum. This is one of the 4 carer forums I use to help engagement between unpaid carers and mental health or even health services. I feel if patients and their families are at the heart of health services, then there should be some form of engagement, involvement and influence.   The forum is run from one of the Bromley, Lewisham and Greenwich MIND offices with support from Community wellbeing.

The Lewisham BAME Mental Health carer forum is fairly unique since its aim is to generate understand of mental health pressures on Black and Minority population in Lewisham and sometimes in other boroughs. Since afro-caribbean are high end users of the mental health services, the forum helps in understanding some of the issues.

We hope the forum can shed light on the following.

  • Education regarding mental health in the BAME population
  • Reducing stigma from both psychology, psychiatry and from families and carers
  • Working on culture and diversity and trying to understand that in partnership with our local mental health trust.
  • Raise the profile of BAME families and carers in the mental health system.

The are more points the forum tries to cover, but that can be for another day. I would like to mention BAME issues are some of the most complex and challenging aspects in mental health, so even then a forum cannot possibly solve those issues, but it can provide a platform of understanding, providing compliments if things are working (and some things do work) or querying if health or MH services are failing families and carers. The forum is particularly interested in what consultations or involvements are taking place in the borough.

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For the January forum Isabelle Ekdawi SLaM’s Trust Advisor for Family Therapy presented to us about Open Dialouge and Trauma Informed care. I was very greatful Isabelle took time out to engage with the members and the BAME community.

To touch a bit more about Open Dialouge.

It is a form of therapy that includes patient, clinician and carer, with less emphasis on the medical model and treating those who use the services as equals.

As far as I can remember Open Dialouge has 3 or more aspects to it, being

  • Philosophical and ethical approach to distress
  • Psychosis seen as response to difficult life situations
  • Avoiding the ‘them and us’ relationship and using just ‘us’
  • A Way of organizing services (which can be a challenge
  • Community based services, networks engaged from beginning, ‘open’ decision making.
  • Use of particular type of therapeutic conversations

Isabelle mentioned some NHS Mental Health Trusts are using Open Dialouge in their services, one of them being North East London Foundation Trust. Off NELFT’s website it explains “Open Dialogue is a model of mental health care which involves a consistent family and social network approach where all treatment is carried out via a whole system/network meetings, which always include the patient”.

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There has been much criticisms of the recent medical model for mental health where there has been a lack of psycho-therapy and too much emphasis on medication. The outcomes for the patient can be very poor and thus more beds are often needed as patients fall through the system time and time again. Open Dialogue aims to challenge such outcomes, but it all starts with education.

Isabelle explained the Overview of the service model to the forum.

  • Treatment team at the time of crisis
  • No separate professionals meetings
  • Planning together becomes the treatment
  • Different voices and dialogues coming into conversation
  • Feed into other treatments – such as individual therapy, social work, family therapy

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There was lengthy discussions on the method, but if anyone is interested they can check out the links below for more information.

http://www.opendialogicalpractices.eu
http://podbulletin.com/
http://www.developingopendialogue.com

The Lewisham BAME carers forum was also joined by Juliana Onwumere who does research over at the Institute of Psychology, psychiatry and Neuroscience, she is a senior lecturer and is very inclusive when it comes to families and carers. She wanted to speak to the group about carer related research that might be of interest.

Each member of the forum gave their opinions, but for me. I feel if we can collate some of the major research done from the past couple of years on families and carers, that would be a good start. Which is why I joined researchgate.net and checked out past research papers. My particular interest is how far did the Care Act 2014 affect carers

If anyone wants to see a list of research papers done on carers, here is the link below.

https://www.researchgate.net/search.Search.html?type=project&query=carers

Please join research gate and contact the researcher to get such papers. I am not a research myself, but I do value research and how it uses evidence to initate change, no one can deny evidence and it can be a strong tool to pressure services or at least get services to understand someone point of view. It was that reasons why I engaged with IOPPN and I am hoping they do a lot more regarding families and carers. I am aware research can stall often, but it is worth doing if it can help in change.

Lastly we had updates from Juliana Frederick-james who is the Community Development Services Manager for Oxleas MH Trust. I have to put a lot of praise on Oxleas for engaging with both the Lewisham Carers forum and also the Lewisham BAME carers forum.

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I am aware Oxleas MH NHS trust covers the boroughs of Bexley, Greenwich and Bromley, but Oxleas often try to support engaged carers especially at groups and forums.  I have been impressed with Oxleas so far, although there is always work to do.

Juliana updated us on how Oxleas is looking to track carer groups and engagement forums, I am hoping that Oxleas engages with BAME projects and one of the comes from the Royal College of Nursing in regards to BAME staff development.

All this is integrated from the South London Partnership, which includes South London & Maudsley and also South West London & St Georges NHS Trust.

I feel BAME projects should not just only come from queries of families and carers but should look into the impact of BAME Mental Health staff and how they relate to diverse communities.

This concludes the January update for the Lewisham BAME MH Carers forum.

Lewisham MH Carers forum January 2020

133Welcome to the first Lewisham Mental Health carer forum of the year. Before I do a brief update of how the forum went, I must say thank you to Carers Lewisham for hosting the forum for almost 6 years. As a carer I often mention to fellow carers that we must support our carer centres. Without carer centers then it is harder to keep the profile of carers at local and community level. Carers need that safe space, access to activities and a place for support. I am aware that so many carer centers are struggling due to lack funds, staff and resources, but my respect for the ones that keep fighting for carers will continue.

As a reminder the Lewisham MH carer forum works to give carers a chance to find out what the mental health and social services are doing for them in the community. The Lewisham MH carer forum is carer led, which serves as a message of empowerment, I always try to make sure families and carers understand the importance of inclusion, empowerment and a chance at co-production, which should be at the heart of Health and social care.

If someone is making decisions that affects patients and their families then they must include those views, if they cannot include those views then they must present what they are doing. Failure to include, co-produce or present health and social care changes leaves the community being distrustful and avoiding to engage with services.

This is precisely why we had SLaM’s involvement lead for the boroughs of Croydon and Lewisham attend to update the members on how things are getting along for involvement. Members of course were interested on the involvement updates regarding carers.

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Jane Lyon who is SLaM’s involvement lead for Lewisham and Croydon updated us on how services in the community were progressing, she unfortunately had to miss the new Lewisham Mental Health Alliance lunch in order to attend the forum, but we were glad that she sent 2 advisory group members to attend the event.

A lot of discussion centered on the Ladywell unit as we also had Eunice Adeshokan in attendance. Eunice is the modern matron for the inpatient wards at Ladywell Unit. I have known Eunice for more around 8 years or more so it will be interesting to see what developments will take place on the wards.

Eunice took the time to explain to carer members of her role and how the profile of families and carers will be raised at the MH wards. She also updated the forum of the special Carers Champion event and how carer leads on the wards across the trust are working in line with trust carers policies and strategies.

There was a discussion about SLaM PALs (a way to complain, compliment or query), since members wanted to know how carers will have the confidence to ask questions regarding the cared for. There will be work to see how staff deal with carers on the wards. One important start is that myself and another carer will visit the wards to check what is standing out for families & carers as I raised something regarding information at one of the wards.

In the meantime, I also raised the query of when the Lewisham and Croydon Staff Carer leads meeting will start up again, however we are waiting to see if staff can take on specific roles for the groups again, it could be the Lead Occupational therapists.

The second half of the Lewisham MH carers forum focuses on the NHS Trusts draft carers strategy. This is something that could not possibly be discussed at a peer support group as members need to have an interest of NHS carer engagement. It takes quite a while to get carers to have an interest of trust strategy and policies and a longer time for them to query it. The problem is the nature of NHS services can say one thing and do another.

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So we are glad that South London & Maudsley is working with carers to query their strategy, because strategies can be used to hold services to account or at least let interested carers know what the Mental health NHS is doing.

I went through the 7-page strategy with carers and spoke about what carers should have a special interest in.

The following important points of the strategy were discussed

  • The Care Act.
  • What is the Trust’s Changing Lives Strategy, Think Family Strategy and the Trust’s Quality priorities.
  • The importance of the Triangle of Care initiative.
  • Understanding the MH NHS Trusts Carer’s Charter
  • Using the trust’s view of what is a carer – in case someone is told that they are not a carer.
  • Querying number of carers since the draft points this out as a challenge.
  • The importance of diversity and how it relates to the Lewisham BAME MH carer forum priorities.
  • The trusts strategy aims
  • Explaining the trusts priorities
  • How the trust will Increase the number of Carer Champions on wards and in community teams
  • How the NHS trust will support the health and wellbeing of carers (A major challenge).
  • I was glad to see in the draft that the trust is looking to go forward and register in the Triangle of Care membership scheme. This of course will take some work and will be something a trust representative can take to the regional ToC meeting to be held at Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust.

I would like to thank Carer’s Greenwich for also attending the Lewisham MH carers forum as I am working to set another carer forum for the borough of Greenwich where Oxleas MH NHS trust can engage with carers at community level.

In the meantime I have set up 2 carer led peer support groups for the borough of Greenwich in order to build a carer base.

This concludes the update for the Lewisham MH carers forum.