Welcome to the October edition of the Lewisham BAME Mental Health carer forum. Its a bit of a mouthful of a forum, but this is the only BAME carer forum I have out of the other 5 carer groups I run.
For the October carer forum, Carers UK were kind enough to lend their Policy and Public Affairs person to the group. Ruby Peacock presented on what Carers UK have been doing for carers up till the coronavirus situation. We were also joined by Dr Siobhan O’Dwyer who is a Senior Lecturer in Ageing & Family Care at the University of Exeter. Dr Siobhan was joined by Artist Leo Jamelli who is working with Dr Siobhan to raise the profile of carers using art. More on that later.
For the forum we were joined by the usual carer members and some newer members, also in attendance was Debora Mo who is Greenwich CCG engagement lead. We were also joined by Nathan Lewis the Community Outreach Manager for Samaritans Lewisham, Greenwich & Southwark Branch. In attendance was Sophie the patient engagement officer from Healthwatch Lewisham who was the third and final speaker at the forum. We were also joined by Lisa Fannon who works for Lewisham’s Public Health and is very interested in how health and mental health is affecting Lewisham’s community especially when it comes to poverty. We were also joined by a governor from Guys and St Thomas NHS Trust who engages with residents of Lewisham, Wandsworth, Westiminister, Southwark & Lambeth on health matters.
UPDATE FROM RUBY PEACOCK.
Up first to speak was ruby from Carers UK. If you do not know already CarersUK is a leading national charity fighting on behalf of the 6 million+ unpaid carers. Ruby kindly attended the forum to update members on CarersUK latest intiatives.
One of the projects that CarersUK have run is called “Entitled harmony voices”, which looks at the experiences of BAME Carers. So as a kind of starting point, CarersUK not only examines the situation of carers, but also BAME carers from the 2011 census. Since the census is fairly old, Ruby admitted that some of the numbers she is presenting on is a bit out of date. She is going to try and talk as well about a little bit of the research CarersUK has done during covid-19.
CarersUK did some research for Carers Week this year looking at the number of carers during the pandemic, not only has the number of carers increased more generally in the population, just because of the aging population, but also because our health and social care systems have been underfunded.
Ruby pointed out that there is even more pressure on family carers and how our demographic will generally have changed. There has also been an increase in the number of carers more generally and she estimates to be about 17 % of the population that being 9.4 million people.
She also found 4.5 million people became carers during COVID-19, because there were people who were shielding who weren’t necessarily needing care for. There were also people who had COVID to add to the required care afterwards.
Ruby would estimate rather than the being half a million BAME carers, we would say it was closer to about 1.3 million carers at the moment. And so in terms of kind of what the demographics look like, there is a spread about the amount of carer that people have provided. So for the majority of people whether they are BAME carers or the general carer population are providing kind of zero to 19 hours cqre, there are the lower levels, about 15% of carers provide between 20 and 49 hours of care, and about 21% provide over 60 hours, which is really in significantly higher numbers. Ruby estimated that about 10% of the BAME population are caring around the clock.
Ruby continued that there are a couple of things that we know about the kind of carer population, she was going to talk a little bit about what we know in terms of experienced BAME carers more generally.
Ruby knows that carers are often in financial difficulty. And not only does caring come with additional costs, whether that additional heating costs or fuel because of carers transporting people to places in different ways, but also within the house, and with that paid for services.
CarersUK are also seeing that some services that used to be provided arent provided any more. So in the end the carer and the person being cared for or having are to cover costs out of their own money. This is often confounded by the fact that often juggling work and care can be really difficult. So we know that there’s about 1.2 million people who are caring who are in financial difficulties and we would classify that as inequality. Ruby mentioned that one of their ongoing campaigns is to kind of raise carers allowance, which we think is the lowest benefit as of its time, which she feels is just simply unacceptable in terms of providing that support for carers needs.
Ruby reminded us that carers struggled to juggle, work and care, and they found in research that 600 people a day give up work to provide care. It was mentioned that during the COVID, CarersUK have seen the increases being a real pressure on people being able to manage their caring responsibility alongside local services either stopped, or severely reduced.
There are also a large number of people shielding, and although some carers could access a furlough scheme it led to some really different experiences with their employees about what they were and what they thought what they needed.
Ruby pointed out that carers are often more likely to be lonely and that part of that is because it’s really difficult to talk about your experiences with different people. It can be really difficult to access breaks, which means you don’t have the time to be able to invest in your relationship, plus carers can be in financial difficulties, which means you can’t access the same sorts of activities that the other people can.
Ruby spoke at length of the other difficulties carers were facing, a good point was on the real emotional impact that people were on under in the month of April. One of the things that CarersUK found was that the majority of carers and 60% of BAME carers said they felt like they were reaching a breaking point. She felt that one of the things that it’s really important is that we don’t put people in the same situation they were in April. It was mentioned that not only were people incredibly stressed about caring safety for themselves, and keeping themselves and the person they care for safe, but they were also taking on extraordinary hours and CarersUK think its not possible for people to care for long period of time.
QUESTIONS FROM MEMBERS
One of the members thanked Ruby for her presentation, she felt a lot of it resonates with her personally and she would like to mention a couple of things that definitely impacted her during COVID. The carer member mentioned she was caring at a distance and she was very glad that Ruby mentioned the situations long distance carers face.
The carer mentioned during COVID, the person she is caring for had a fall and that he also went out well. He was taken to the hospital, by ambulance and so on. And because he had also has some underlying health issues, the hospital decided to check him out thoroughly. And lots of appointments were made some early in the morning. Plus the fact that he has a special needs, So she needed to be with him as his carer at the hospital during these appointments, to be able to hear what the consultants are saying to be able to ask questions, to give them his history.
Ruby responded that we don’t think the NHS does enough to recognize the role of carers and we’re also incredibly concerned about the change to government policies on hospital discharge, which dont provide and don’t suggest that there should be a carers assessment as part of the discharge. It is important to know who the family or who else is in the home and who will be providing that care. There is still a long way to go for Acute NHS hospitals who are slow to be carer aware.
Another question was on older adult carers. The carer was concerned that when Ruby sends off information to the government regarding younger carers or adult carers. He feels those carers will get support, but older carers will be left out. He was wondering if carer data was broken down into 3 categories as in younger carers, adult carers and older adult carers. Ruby mentioned CarersUK focuses on adult carers, but young carers tend to be the focus of another national carer charity, that being CarersTrust. I suspect AgeUK might focus more on older adult carers. Ruby also mentioned breaking down the 6 million carers into categories would be a massive task in itself.
Another carer wanted to expand on the issue of completing online surveys. She wanted to talk about access to digital services, and or probably people’s capacity to actually complete forms online. She asked if there something about the care coordinator sitting down and having some way of completing that form on behalf of the individual. Because whereas we used to be sitting in an office, and then somebody can complete it for you. And that was fine. but we’re now in this digital new way of working, not everybody has access to being on zoom, not everybody has access to the internet and not everybody has access to be able to print an application or form of an insult
Another member raised the point that the problem that is facing their NHS trust is that because the black and Asian people are so used to the inequalities within the services. They’re not even interested in filling out the forms to be quite honest. So we now need to find a way where there is less talking and more action.
Another carer gave an example of her experience as a long distance carer, while another carer member felt BAME people were being put in a box, but not categorised enough from being different from service users. There was still a lack and understanding of the needs of BAME carers.
With that I thanked Ruby for her time and thanked her for representing caresUK and coming to engage with BAME carers. I mentioned that I hoped that we can hear from CarersUK in the new year and continue relations with the good work CarersUK does in advocating and raising the carers agenda.
NEW PROJECT FROM EXETER UNIVERSITY – Dr Siobhan O’Dwyer presents
Dr Sioban wanted to talk about what they did around hearing from carers experience of COVID. They had a group of carers who they gathered right at the beginning of lockdown and they interviewed them every week for 12 weeks. So every week between April and June they heard about carers experiences. They are also going to go back in January as part of that research and that they have working really closely with different government departments, including the department of health and social care, department of Work and Pensions, public health England, CarersUK and also The House of Lords.
Dr Sioban wants to put together a briefing to each of those government departments and the various charities so that they have that information. They felt they done quite well with that project in terms of helping policy makers and and charities and local authorities understand the experiences of carers.
What she feels she hasn’t done too well is to actually engage the community and help the community see what a brilliant job carers have been doing through this time, and also have tough they’ve been doing it. And so in order to sort of shift to that focus in and work with the community, she recently got some funding from the council to do some large scale art installations to debate the challenges that Carer’s face during this time, but also to celebrate the amazing work carers do and the incredible bonds carer work so hard for the ‘cared for’
One of the things she really wants to work towards is to represent and celebrate BAME carers and carers from ethnic minorities, because she recognizes that they’re not represented in a lot of the research on carers or on a lot of the community discussions.
ARTIST LEO JAMELI PRESENTS TO THE FORUM
Lee mentioned in 2019 where he worked with Dr Catriona Mckenzie and Dr Sioban, the project they worked upon was an art projection of his own experiences of care. The art image was of his mother taking care of his father. The image was hand drawn and shows the human endeavor to continue to care. The art projection is called “the Invisible Carer”, which is a large-scale light projection designed to celebrate the often unheralded and crucial role of family carers.
Leo mentioned how he felt to portray mother’s experiences of care, but just in a small kind of loop. So it’s this idea of she was having to carry him instead of losing him, through also, with kind of medical health decline in slipping through her hands, but then finding the strength that most carers find
You can see the art projection in the link below.
what Leo hopes to do these projections is to bring much more public awareness about care, because it seems generally in health services, everyone does a good job, but it seems like kind of social care the poor cousin of the NHS. Leo feels it doesn’t seem to get as much public attention it deserves.
Leo explained more of the visual representation of the art projection and how large the scale of the projection. He mentioned if you look in the back distance, you can see someone in a restaurant, so it kind of gives you the idea of the scale as they are about three to two story is high. The focus for this year is to get a projection of a BAME carer from London to be involved in the new art work, which members were very interested in taking part.
CARER MEMBER RESPONSES
One of the members was interested on how long is this project for? because its possible that covid-19 lockdowns can affect the funding of the project. It was however stated that funding has already been secured for the project, only the weather could cause any disruptions when the artwork is projected on to a building. The aim is to project the artwork in Southwark.
HEALTHWATCH LEWISHAM ENGAGEMENT
Next to engage the BAME carers forum was Sophie from Healthwatch Lewisham. She is the patient experience officer for the organisation. The aim for her was to speak to the group directly to get feedback from health and social care services.
Sophie explained more on healthwatch do. Basically Healtwatch is the patients champion for people who use health and social care services, so that can be carers and relatives and patient service users. Basically Healthwatch takes feedback on hospitals, GPS, opticians, dentists, community health and they basically listen to what’s going well, what could be being done. At the end of every quarter, healthwatch will analyze all that feedback, and then produce reports which is passed on to the people who have the power to make those changes happen.
Many carers feed back about pharmacy issues and queries about hospitals. It was empowering to heave healthwatch engage with carers and I hope we can continue to have engagement from such a prominent organisation.
This concludes our update from the October BAME carers forum. I also want to note that I have released a carers news item. To subscribe click on the link below and select subscribe to get updates of the latest carer news.