SW London MH Carer Forum September 2021

Welcome to a brief update of my South West London mental health carer peer forum. This group is a mixture of carer peer support and mostly engagements from health & social carer organisations, especially the local mental health trust South West London & St Georges. This carer’s group cover’s 5 boroughs as all 5 carer centres including the mental health trust work hard to promote it.

South West London & St George NHS

An extra bonus of this group is I do open it up to national speakers so the following speakers for September

Jacqui Darlington – Carer campaigner

Tristan Brice – London ADASS

Karen Persaud – SWLSTG carer friends and family involvement coordinator

Karen Persaud presents on her new role.

Karen talked to our group about her new role at the mental health NHS trust.

Karen has just recently joined the Southwest London St. George’s NHS mental health trust. She is now the carer family and friends involvement coordinator. Karen is a carer herself so she has lived experience, which is a great bonus to relate to unpaid mental health carers. She has been a carer for about 17 years and is a carers champion to the cause of caring. When Karen started providing carer she admitted that she find her way through things throughout the carers journey. Things have now improved since the person she is looking after is continuing his journey to recovery, which is why she is able to actually return to work because in the past she had to give up full time employment a couple of years ago.

When the new carer’s role arrived, she felt it was a fantastic oppertunity because she is so passionate about trying to improve experiences for carers as well as patients and service users. The role actually met her needs part time and local or distance working. Karen finished up by stating it is one of those jobs where you can actually say, I’m enjoying this, I’m doing something worthwhile.

Jaccqui Darlington presents on her role as a carer

Jaccqui is well known nationally on campaigning for unpaid carers, as a request from the group, I asked Jaccqui if she could talk more about her role and the importance of caring. Jaccqui spoke at length about the importance of unpaid carers and on why she campaigns.

One question from our group focuses on the COVID-19 pandemic and how it highlighted the pressures on unpaid carers. Jaccqui felt that in the end she felt the pandemic has highlighted how much unpaid carers are relied on. Jaccqui mention that It was okay for everybody else to close their doors and stay home, but nobody actually thought about how that was going to affect those who are unpaid carers or affect the person we are caring for. This is because it’s a change in their routine as well.

It shocked members when Jaccqui stated she took quite ill at the beginning of the pandemic. She did mention that her doctor’s surgery and social services were brilliant. This was because when she was ill, they were able to provide her with a cleaner that came in every week and the doctors was ringing her up every couple of days to check up on things.

She eventually got better during those calls and eventually checkups were no longer needed. Still at the beginning, all you knew about was a cough and a change in temperature, but what she felt she was displaying was loss of taste, dizziness, and all sorts of other things, which is what the NHS is now recognizing.

Jaccqui pointed out that one day a person had this mask on who visited and she never had seen him before in her life, wearing a lanyard, he did say he was from an organisation in order to help, but she felt not to be able to see his face properly, which caused her to panic and query where he was from, basically Jaccqui felt there we situations where services or communication was not joined up, even though things were trying to adjust to the pandemic.

Without being able to see someone’s face its hard to be able to tell them your concerns without connecting with the emotions. She felt carers need to actually tell people when they are not happy with certain things in a diplomatic way. For instance a carer might be getting direct payments or down payments, this is there to help them source these things, but there might be times when what the services are offering isn’t good enough. So in the process of saying that, carers need to be able to back it up by faith. This is because the services can be ever changing and complex and if you are not sure about what to do as an unpaid carer then all you have is faith on your side.

There was a long discussion on the problems of carer’s allowance and carer’s benefits, especially for unpaid carers trying to navigate the system. Many interesting and important questions came from our carer’s group and Jaccqui was kind to answer them all.

As a last note Tristan Brice had to leave for another meeting, but will be back at the forum soon. This was my brief update for the SW London carers forum.