Category Archives: Carer Events

Review and updates on carer events I attend

SLaM Family and carer listening event 2022

Hello Fellow carers. A quick blog from me on the latest South London & Maudsley (SL&M) NHS Foundation trust’s recent families and carers listening event. Usually mental health NHS organisations run special events to bring together those who care and support someone with mental illness, especially those using the trust services. I have been to a few NHS organisation carer events, but was delighted to see SLaM were to host one close to carer’s rights day.

It has been around 3 years since the Maudsley hosted a listening event for unpaid mental health carers. I remember the last carer event held over at Southwark community coin street where we had some excellent speakers and the staff were very welcoming.

All of the past family and carer listening event focused on carers getting a chance to be updated and also to be heard. The 2022 event I felt was very different and gave a chance for carers to update each other, especially those who were very involved shaping maudsley trust services.

The family and carer listening event 2022 was held over at the Ortus, which is SL&M’s own venue for hosting small or large conferences, meetings, training courses. I have not been over to the Ortus for some years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which also explains why SLaM has not hosted the carer conference for some time.

The carer event was chaired by Gabrielle Richards MBE who is the trust Head of Inclusion, Recovery, Professional Head of Occupational Therapy and AHPs. So yes, Gabrielle does an awful lot. Her role is also inclusion of carers and patients at the trust. Going back to the event, I arrived on a wet rainy thursday morning, since the event started around 9:30 am. It was not easy getting to the Ortus due to the maze of construction developing of the exciting new build, but maudsley staff were very friendly and helpful in directing me to the site.

The Ortus was very warm and comforting, I was handed SLaM’s latest launch of their Planning for the future bookley, carer’s strategy and emergency planning booklet.

I noticed with all the booklets there was a heavy carer influence especially from those who attend the NHS trust’s carers committee.

As I arrived, I was greated by staff and carers from each of the boroughs SL&M covers, which are Croydon, Lewisham, Southwark and Lambeth. We were served early refreshments as I caught up with those who I have not seen for a while. I noticed also carer governors doing their bit to engage and chat with other carers while also networking. Everyone was looking forward to the event.

The event was held in the large conference room downstairs with Gabrielle and Flora Ezenwoye, Chair of the Family and Carers committee welcoming the audience to the event. We then got a presentation from Alice Casey who is the Director of Programmes of the Maudsley Charity.

Next was a listening exercise as the hosts asked carers what they would like to hear more about at the carer conference. Next we got to hear a carer’s story from Faith Smith who spoke about her involvement at the mental health foundation trust. A lot of new carers have not heard of involvement in shaping/influence services, especially services aimed at carers, so I noticed they paid a lot of attention.

One of my forum group members was unable to attend, but we got to see a video of Brenda who spoke about the importance of planning for the future. Brenda feels carers including herself must be supported to plan for the future as there is also a worry how a carer will cope when they are unable to care in later life. This helped explain the launch of one of the booklets.

We then got to hear from chair of the NHS trust Sir Norman Lamb who spoke about the NHS trust direction for carers, he also was proud what the trust has done with Triangle of care (inclusion policies aimed at supporting carers), but he admitted there are still many things to work on and nothing was perfect. I felt it very important those who help lead the trust make their presence known at events and also get a chance to listen to carers themselves.

This was when I got to do my presentation, which Sir Norman stayed to watch. All of my own projects tend to focus on networking and sharing ideas. So I presented on the importance of carer networking, events bringing people together and also holding to account. I spent most of the time asking carers to share ideas of what they felt was a good example of carer networking.

I also finished off with a carer networking poem from my latest poetry book “The Poetry book of mental health caring”, which you can purchase off Amazon. The poem taken from the book was called “The carer network”

Next we got to hear updates and service information from Chris McCree who is the Parental Mental Health Lead of the Helping Families Team and Perinatal Community Services. We also heard from Nick Hunter who is the Peer Trainer of the Fathers group. After the talk, we then had launch and got a chance to catch up with other carers we have not seen for a while, an exciting development was carers from the Croydon area started a new connection group, which I am now hosting, Usually I connect in Lewisham, Southwark and Lambeth and every so often I will go over to Greenwich or connect with my SW london group or West London carer groups, but I have not paid much attention to Croydon much.

I have now agreed to form more of a connection carers from that borough, especially since my SW London group gets some engagement from the SW London Integrated Care System and they cover 6 boroughs including Croydon. There is also exciting news regarding those boroughs, but I am keeping my mouth shut for now. In the end, it does not mean I am running a Croydon group, but it does mean we connect more online and it helps that carer governors are present in the group.

I also caught up with friends and carers from Southwark as I spoke to Toni King and Lorraine James who are from the Southwark Council mental health team. I mentioned to them I run a carer’s stall at several accute hospitals and would be glad to promote their service to carers at Kings College Hospital. I also chatted to carers who attend the Lambeth MH carers peer group and spoke to carers regarding the Patient Carer Race Equality Framework. So you can get an idea of what I mean about carer networking.

After a lovely lunch, we got to do another listening exercise to give feedback. Plus we got to hear from Margaret Whipp who talked about her experience as a carer and the importance of connecting on social media.

I often mention to carers that it is so important to get online and make your presence known. Online campaigning, connecting and networking works wonders for those who are isolated and caring for someone vulnerable. Due to the technological innovations pushed from the pandemic, the time to get online has never been more important. There was more exciting presentations and exercises being chair Yoga, Implementation studies helping to reduce racial Disparities, Triangle of Care Updates and also more carer stories.

There were also excellent presentations from Annette Davis who is the chair of PCREF service user and carer group at SLaM, plus she is also involved in the triple leadership for Southwark and also the facilitator of Southwark BAME peer group. Annette presented on LAMB training, which focuses on looking after yourself and carer wellbeing, plus another carer Carole Haynes did a talk on her experiences.

Overall I felt the latest family and carer conference was the best carer event yet from SLaM. I have been attending them for years. I think this one was the 5th or 6th carer listening event from SLaM that I have attended, so I think I know the terrain a bit. The reason this recent event turned out well was the format. The event was very well planned, although some things made the event run a bit late, I noticed the host state we should not worry or panic over such things, which I felt injected a form of mental wellness into the audience. These are things I look for as mental health professionals should practice what they preach. The event was very inclusive so we did not hear endless updates, but the audience got a chance to talk and be listened to.

Luckily there was no shouting and screaming about poor services as I got the feeling there was a form of empowerment and learning, there was of course talks about carer activism, but that is part of the empowerment principal. I also enjoyed the free food and nothing upset my stomach. Staff were very supportive and glad to see me and special thanks to Cath Collins who thanked me for my presentation. It was a shame I could not stay as I had to prepare for the Health Service Journal awards for 2022 (more on that later).

Still there was a lot of talk in my whatsapp groups about the event, specially from my Lewisham group and also the new Croydon group, even now as I blog there are good things being said about the event. I hope SLaM continue the work they should be proud of with the carer conferences. I will finish off with a poem I got a chance to read out at the event.

All my time I have been on my own
Then I heard it through another carer
It seems if I can get that carer’s network
Then understanding my role would be clearer

It is hard to know that your lost in the system
The more you speak the less they listen
I sick and tired of battling alone
As a carer I dont want to stay hidden

Then I was introduced to the carers network
They all said the same and wanted to connect
I feel an inner light that shrines through
And now I feel I am getting that respect

Still its hard to feel part of that movement
Things change so fast it is hard to keep up
If we are not kept ahead of all the changes
Then it is easy to see the carers network breakup

We look around to see other representation
For paid carers, professionals and service users
But what about our own carers network
Don’t unpaid carers also have futures?

Still for the time I have I am not on my own
I tell another carer what I have found
They also join the carers network
Where understanding their role is so profound

Lewisham Carers Hub – Carers forum relaunch

Welcome to an update from my unpaid carers blog. Recently I attended Lewisham Carers Hub event. They are relaunching their carers forum, which is a great way for unpaid carers to connect, network and voice their feedback.

Lewisham Carers Hub provides a range of services including advice, information, emotional support, short breaks, opportunities to meet other carers to reduce isolation and build resilience.

The event was chaired by Sue Stockman – Director of carers services. Sue listened to carers carefully and responded very well to queries and concerns. With the relaunch of the carers forum, Carers Hub Lewisham wants to be more inclusive and give carers a chance to co-chair the meeting.

I was excited to hear about work to promote a carer’s charter developed in conjunction with unpaid carers. A carer’s charter helps carers and others know about carers rights. I also learned about IT development support for carers struggling with digital literacy and upcoming services at the carers centre including carers counselling service, health and wellbeing activities and cost of living workshops.

At the forum was Tristan Brice from Lewisham council. Lewisham council wants carers to feed back on recommissioning and also wants to hear from carers about carer identification, carer assessments and other things.

Lewisham Carers Hub are also going through a rebranding process and I have included part of the branding below. There will be more to come.

In the end I thought that well attended with many carers contributing their thoughts and suggestions. I feel having a carers forum shows how a carers centre can give carers a voice and a say on what helps them overall. So even though it is early days, we can see how the carers forum develops.

King’s College Hospital – World Mental Health Fair

Welcome back to another blog by Matthew McKenzie carer advocate and campaigner. Just a quick reminder this website focuses on those who care for someone with a mental illness. I am talking about unpaid carers, usually friends and families. Just recently we had an awareness campaign “World Mental Health Day” 2022.

World Mental Health Day runs on Monday, 10 October. For the UK, the national mental health charity “Mental Health Foundation” leads on raising awareness and campaigning for better mental health.

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/our-work/public-engagement/world-mental-health-day

Of course there are other organisations and charities that help raise awareness of mental health. I have recently been engaging with hospitals to focus on unpaid carers. King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is one of the organisations that engages heavily with one of my carer forums (Joint Southwark and Lambeth). I was delighted to be asked to promote my carers group at the latest World mental health fair organised by King’s college Hospital.

King’s College Hospital mental health lead Kieran Quirke organised the event. Kieran is the associate Director of Nursing for Mental Health at King’s College Hospital. The fair was to introduce to staff, patients and carers about what is available in the community.

The organisations that took part were the following

The Well Centre
Lambeth Carers Hub
Age UK Lambeth
Southwark and Lambeth Mental Health carers Forum
The SHARP Gallery
Southwark Wellbeing Hub
The Butterfly Dementia Cafe
Kooth (youth mental wellbeing support)
Lambeth and Southwark MIND
Mosaic Clubhouse
South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.

I am sure there were many more, but the important thing is that the community was brought together to network and help raise awareness of all the important work that they do. I was told that the room the MH fair took place, had just been recently decorated. This shows that King’s College Hospital are trying their best to invest in what is important to the community.

For my stall, I focused on the importance of unpaid carers given the empowerment to promote networking, peer groups and advocacy.

I hope there will be more events like this next year.

Carer of People with Autism & Psychosis – KCL group

Hello fellow unpaid carers. Kings College Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and neuroscience are launching a new group. The groups will be facilitated by Madeleine Oakley who is the Senior Teaching Fellow in Mental Health Studies at Kings College London. Madeline also has experience of care as she is also a family carer of her young adult son who has autism, who has a learning disability and mental health problems.

Please see poster below and you can also contact Madeleine at madeleine.oakley@kcl.ac.uk

Lewisham & Greenwich NHS Trust The Improvement Showcase Event

Hello fellow carers of Lewisham and Greenwich. Registration for the Lewisham & Greenwich NHS trust’s Improvement Showcase Event is now open.

The event looks to present on bridging the gap between on improving quality healthcare for all.

The event will be opened by CEO Ben Travis

Speakers throughout the day will be LGT Improvement journey so far Louise Crosby, Chief Nurse

“Bridging the gaps in health inequalities- the national picture” presented by Dr Dianne Addei who is Senior Public Health Advisor for the National Healthcare Inequalities Improvement Programme by NHS England & Improvement

We also have “What does it truly take to embed a culture of continuous improvement?” This will be presented by Dr Amar Shah, Consultant forensic psychiatrist & Chief Quality Officer from East London NHS FT

Of interest to carers will be a session on “Co-producing improvements” where people can hear about examples of co-production from some of the hospitals patient and carer representatives.

You can register for the event below

https://us06web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYtd-2vrjwiGtFCKetZJlyRPeCwzJBa_y43

Kent & Medway NHS and Kent Community Health NHS FT joint Carers Conference 2022

Welcome fellow carers. Another update from carer ambassador Matthew McKenzie. I thought to do a quick update and feedback to a recent carers conference I have just returned from. The event has such a significance because it was held during carers week 2022.

As you might know already, I speak often about the carer’s policies on Triangle of care. Usually the triangle of care has been taken up by many mental health trusts, but we are seeing an evolution where community and acute NHS trusts are picking up the challenge to focus efforts to families, friends and carers. So on the 9th of June 2022. Kent & Medway NHS & Social Care Partnership Trust and Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust launched their first ever JOINT carers conference.

The conference took place over at the Repton Connect Community Centre over in Ashford. I had a pleasant journey by train as the sun was shining. Of course I did not want to miss the event, because I was involved in co-producing the event with other carers. This is very important for other NHS trusts to co-op carers into planning such events since carers have an idea on what other families, friends and carers would like to hear.

I am blogging about the event, because I dont think I managed to give feedback when I left near the end of the event. So I hope my feedback is useful.

As I arrived at the conference, it was easy to get in because both staff from the 2 NHS trusts recognised me straight away and were smiling. I did catch a hint of nerves as people wonder if something was going to go wrong or fall apart, but as the conference got underway, everything went smoothly.

We had a good turn out at the first ever carer’s conference for the 2 NHS trusts and I was very impressed that both Chief execs (Gordon Flack and Helen Greatorex) of the NHS trusts turned up to open the event. They both admitted that although lots of changes has happened, there was always more to do. What impressed me is that the CEO’s stayed for quite a while at the event and introduced themselves to many staff and carers.

The set up of both on-site and virtual engagement was very impressive, but it is a different experience if you turn up for the event, although I admit some people cannot leave the ‘cared for’ by themselves at times.

We have some excellent activities and workshops listed below

  • Carer stories from Liz
  • Carer experience Video from Kay
  • Workshop on Carer assessments and support (carer’s first charity)
  • Dementia Care from Specialist Nurse
  • A video from MP Helen Whatley who used to be Minister for Care
  • Recovery college presentation
  • Managing Medication
  • Triangle of Care progression and updates
  • Plus close from the Acting Chief exe and CEO

Favourite parts of the event

I would have like to say I loved all of the event, but some things stuck out more and I feel they ought to get a mention. These things would have to be the ‘Carer’s Stories’. If its on video or a brave carer standing up in front of other carers or staff, its always something special. I learn from others all the time and I am sure other carers and professionals learn from those stories. In fact one of the carer stories is used for training staff. It make things that personal and authentic.

Another thing I felt was important was the triangle of care update, especially from Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust, since it was the first non-mental health trust to take up the challenge of Triangle of care. Implementing the triangle of care is no easy task. It is not meant to be easy to be honest, but that NHS trust has laid the foundation for others to follow.

The food was very good at the conference and I hope in later conferences we can get something hot. I admit with conferences from South London and Maudsley, I get the feeling they splash out and spoil carers. Still, the food was very good and I did not waste anything. Most importantly, I networked with other carers and we exchanged details to keep in touch. This probably the most important reason for attending a carers conference. Carers ought to network and keep in touch.

Lastly, I took the chance to visit some stalls and found some useful information that can make life easier for unpaid carers, friends and family.

Overall I felt the staff worked very hard to put the first ever joint carer’s conference together and I hope the next conference will be bigger and lay even more foundations for others to follow.

I almost forgot. I did not manage to do a carer poem at the event. So I thought to leave one here, the poem highlights the importance of telling a carer’s story, especially at events like the one I have reviewed.

I tell my story to the crowd
I tell it loud, nice and proud
It is my story that I be telling
Of all my work and all my caring

No sweat, no fear I tell it here
Of all my hopes and all my fears
It started on that fateful morning
Her mental illness came without warning

I told the audience how I was frantic
I alerted the doctor who said “Don’t Panic”
It’s such a long journey of my caring
I am telling my story to be sharing

The audience stared, cheered and cried
And onwards still, I ve nothing to hide
All is laid out with my story to bear
I am doing my best with little to fear

And now my story is at an end
I hope the audience comprehends
I feel accomplished and feel understood
On telling my story, who thought I never would

The importance of carers week 2022

Welcome everyone, especially unpaid fellow carers who are caring for someone.

My name is Matthew McKenzie, carer, author of a Caring Mind and Experiences of Mental health caregiving. I also run many carer peer groups and forums aimed at those providing support to someone suffering mental illness. Plus I am the chair of Carers UK ethnic carers advisory group and the National Triangle of care group regarding principles of carer engagement.

I am here to blog about carers week. For this year, it will be carers week 2022. I have been a long supporter of raising that much needed awareness of carers week not only to those who provide health and social care services to unpaid carers, but raising awareness of caring to the public and even carers themselves, not every knows or understands they are caring.

To watch the video, please play the video below.

  • So what is carers week all about?

Carers Week is an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges unpaid carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK. It also helps people who don’t think of themselves as having caring responsibilities to identify as carers and access much-needed support.

Organisations that support carers week are too numerous to mention, but the main ones are listed below

  • AgeUK
  • Carers Trust
  • Carers UK
  • Motor Neurone Disease Association
  • Oxfam
  • Rethink Mental Illness
  • The Lewy Body Society
  • So why do I feel Carers Week is so important this year?

Well there are several reasons.

The first is that there are many policies and laws being revamped and changed, this includes the Mental Health Act, The health & Social care Bill, Mental capacity Act and many more. We must raise the awareness that these changes do not exclude carers and their importance.

The other reasons are due to the high cost of living, unpaid care by its very definition IS unpaid, the vulnerable took a knock during the COVID-19 crisis and yet again the vulnerable will take a hit again. Providing support and care in the community should be praised by society and yet many think people should just “Get on with it”.

There are many other reasons, but the video would take so long. Unpaid caring carries stigma, not many would jump to the front of the line and say they are caring for someone suffering psychosis or self harm, because still in society people will be riddiculed. The other side of the coin is that some carers out there do not want the label, but the risk is they might lose out on support. Carers week gives that much needed awareness to say caring should be valued.

Lastly did I mention I am a poet? I am supporting Carers Week 2022 by doing a share and learn session at Carers UK. If you are a carer and want to hear more about my poety, mental health or awareness of ethnic / BAME carers. Please see the link below

https://www.carersuk.org/help-and-advice/get-support/share-and-learn-online-sessions

Carers Week: Support in Southwark: Carers

Do you know Carers Week 2021 starts on monday 7th of June?

The theme for this year is Making Caring Visible and Valued. Which is good news for Southwark since Southwark Healthwatch are running an event where unpaid carers in Southwark can learn about the different types of support available for carers in borough. There will be guest speakers from various services such as Southwark Carers, Mobilise, the Carers Leads from Southwark Council and Coach4Carers to speak to unpaid carers about different ways they support carers.

There will also be a Q&A session after each speaker to answer any questions you may have.

I will be opening the Southwark Healthwatch event and hope to see many carers learn what support they can get for carers week.

To book on the event see the details below

https://www.healthwatchsouthwark.org/event/2021-06-09/support-southwark-carers