Category Archives: Carer Events

Review and updates on carer events I attend

Carers Trust 50 years of caring event

Welcome back to another blog post by carer activist, author and poet Matthew McKenzie. I just thought to do a quick blog about an exciting and important event I attended last night.

Carers Trust a national charity to promotes and supports unpaid carers have reached an important milestone. It was their 50th Anniversary and to celebrate that milestone, the charity held their event over at the Old Bailey.

I have never been to such a pretigous building before and I am still wondering how on earth Carers Trust managed to hold their event there. The event was a drinks reception along with important speeches as to why Carers Trust fights so hard for carers. Do you remember the TV soap drama Crossroads? If you do, then you might remember a particular 1973 Crossroads theme regarding someone caring after a car crash. This led to viewers sending mail about their thoughts and experiences, which in turn led to a national drive on support for unpaid carers.

You can watch a short video below showing the history of Carers Trust

The beginnings of Carers Trust was explained in detail by Angela Rippon CBE who was a guest at the drinks reception. Her lived experience, knowledge and drive to battle for unpaid carers was an inspiration.

The event was hosted by Sheriff Alastair King who opened the event. We also had speeches from chair of Carers Trust John McLean OBE and CEO of Carers Trust Kirsty McHugh. I admit I have never met Kirsty before, but she has lots of energy and dashes around very fast.

At the event I was introduced to those who also championed the role of unpaid carers. Rohati Chapman Exec Director at Carers trust was an excellent host and made me feel welcomed.

The speech by young carer, Aditya Akella was exceptional as he mentioned the themes that are important to young carers. A lot of the themes I often present regarding talks I do about my books. The most important is carers do their role out of Love including other things.

As I wandered around the drink’s reception, I could not help be taken in by the hall. The old Bailey is majestic and historical. The importance of justice, fighting for others and of motto’s etched on the walls require some serious investigation. There is a lot about the place I still do not understand, but reflecting back, the building holds a significant reason as to why people fight so hard for what is important to the community. I am not a barrister, Laywer or Judge, I am just a simple carer activist, but deep down I feel the Old Bailey actually wanted the event to be held there. This goes double to those who take the time to fight for the vulnerable.

I am aware that as a majority we still strive to do what is right, but because some roles are done for free, there are people who feel there is not much value in such roles. A just and civil society should try to value those sacrifices, because in the end it is what sustains the community.

All in all, I enjoyed the drinks reception and I wish Carers Trust success in the future.

World Social Work day 2023

Welcome back to another carers blog by Matthew McKenzie. It recently was World Social Work Day, which took place on the 21st March 2023. The theme for 2023 World Social work day was ‘Respecting diversity through joint social action. Social workers are very important if you are caring for someone. It helps to get that extra support regarding your role as an unpaid carer.

Social workers are becoming a rare resource these days, so it is important to raise awareness of social workers. It is also important to value them. World Social Work day allows social workers worldwide stand together to send the common message of relieving people’s suffering, fight for social justice, and improve lives and communities.

Social works help people with health, psychological or social problems. This in turn builds healthier communities. It was fortunate I was allowed to present at South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust World Social work day event.

The event took place at Maudsley’s conference centre “Ortus”

The event organisers used the theme on learning from the voices of service users and carers in mental health social work.

We had some great speakers from that event. A special mention to Jo Lambert and her mental health focus. You can check out her books in the link below.

Recognition Project

I started off my presentation on what I feel was the importance of world social work day. Of course I asked the audience what they thought about the awareness day. I then read a poem from my book “The Poetry book of mental health caring”

You can see my presentation from my video below.

The poem I read was called “My Story”

I then told how my carer’s journey unfolded and how Social workers worked with carer and service user.

How did Social workers helped my role as a carer?

  • I explained to the audience that it was important that social workers are knowledgeable of the services and explained them to my mother and myself.
  • Some social workers saw me as an asset. Some social workers saw me as part of a support network helping to support my mother.
  • It is important social workers use psychology to help heal. Some social workers talked about what can be done, rather than what could not be done, so constantly providing a positive focus.
  • One of the most important roles of a social worker is explaining about carers assessment. The carer’s assessment is an important tool for a carer to learn more about their needs.
  • Lastly referring me on to carer support was invaluable
Embed from Getty Images

All in all the NHS Maudsley gave me a powerful voice to promote my voice as a former mental health carer. I hope awareness of social workers continue to grow

Young Carers Action Day

Welcome back to another blog post by carer activist and author Matthew McKenzie. Only a few days until Young Carers Action day 2023, which will be on wednesday 15 of March. Young Carers Action day is an annual awareness and campaign event run by national carer’s charity Carers Trust.

If you are not sure what young carers do. They look after someone in the family unpaid and will have to cook, provide housework and even do shopping. It is not those tasks alone, young carers from the age of 5 can even provide physical care or emotional support. Young carers might even have to advocate for the person they care for or even help communicate for the ‘cared for’.

Embed from Getty Images

If you wish, you can check out my video on Young Carers Action day from my YouTube site below.

With all the tasks mentioned above and more, it makes sense that the theme for YCAD is “Make time for young carers”. It is important young people get the time for themselves since their role can be very demanding and caring for someone often comes with sacrifices. Later in life, people might have a choice in the care they provide, this cannot always be said for young carers who miss out on many opportunities. This could be in making friends with those at school, or missing out on education and skills training. When caring for someone, if you do not get a break then your own wellbeing is at risk.

So it is important young carers have access to breaks and are able to be identified early. When I was young, I did not know I was a young carer, so Young Carers Action Day helps raise awareness to young people who are caring. Once they know they are carers, then it is easier to ask for support and to ask to be identified.

Carers Trust want several things to happen for young carers.

  • improved support in schools
  • more access to breaks,
  • better access to counselling support
  • and more financial support.

If you want to help spread the message, check out Carers Trust resource pack from the link below

Carers Trust YCAD Resource Pack

North West Regional Carers Network Event

Welcome fellow carers and readers. Aren’t you lucky today? I am publishing 2 blogs in one day. To be honest I was mean’t to publish 4, but I ought to get some rest. Lots of meetings tomorrow.

Due to being passionate about carers and passionate about a carer’s network. I was fortunate to be invited to speak at Cygnet Healthcarer’s carers network event. The event took place at Cygnet Hospital Bury.

Cygnet Healthcare look to provide the best service for their clients and this includes those who provide care. There is always lots of work to do, but they keep striving.

The event was called “North West Regional Carers Network Event”. Cygnet Healthcare have many locations, so it was brilliant to talk to professinals and carers about the importance of carers and the importance of a carers network.

I was also joined by another Carer who spoke on the day. Lesley Mellor who is the chair of Dorset Parent Carer council. She has an amazing personality and is an expert by experience regarding care and the importance of including carers. Laura Sheridan who is Group Service Improvement Manager for Cygnet Healthcare looked after us well.

We stayed at Premier Inn hotal which provided excellent service and lovely food. I am impressed by Laura’s dedication and philosophy for quality service and inclusion.

I was honoured to open the event and as usual due to my latest project on carer poetry, I read poem number 27. The poem was called “The Carer’s Network”, although to be fair I was struggling to choose which poem to read.

During the event, I spoke about my carer’s journey, the importance of carer’s being included and involved the audience in a quiz. Both Carer’s and professionals were knowledgable in their fields and were always honest and friendly.

We also had the following speakers

Vicky McNally – Director of Partnership and Engagement, Cygnet Health Care who spoke about the progress Cygnet Healthcare has made so far and the plans for the future.

Kate Mercer – Family Advocate, Black Belt Advocacy. Kate spoke about the importance of advocacy and educated us what rights carers have.

Sharon Spurling – Head of Network Development, Carers Trust spoke about the importance of Triangle of care and how Cygnet Health care are implimenting the triangle of care across their sites.

Overall, I enjoyed the day and enjoyed mingling with the speakers. I think I might have ate too much and doozed off, but that was my own fault. Looking forward to more conferences.

Mental Health Service in Greenwich

Greenwich Mental Health Hub is holding a PAID opportunity(£25 retail voucher) for their focus group events to help shape mental health!

How your Services Users/Carers can sign up:


Greenwich Mental Health Hub, 1st Floor, Equitable House 7 General Gordon Square London SE18 6FH


Tuesday 23rd February 2023, 4:30pm – 6:30pm

Wednesday 8th March 2023, 4:30pm – 6:30pm

Wednesday 22nd March 2023, 4:30pm – 6:30pm

Carer poems – Carers Lewisham culture day 2022

Hello visitors and those providing care or caregiving to someone close. Here is another carer awareness blog from Matthew Mckenzie, carer activist, poet and author from Lewisham.

This blog is about Carers Lewisham Hub’s culture day. Carer centres are a vital part of providing support and services for those giving unpaid care. Carers Lewisham fights hard to identify carers, advocate for them and give as much support as possible.

I often visit the carers centre for their forums and support groups. On the 28th of July 2022, since the borough of Lewisham was the borough of culture. Carers Lewisham was hosting their culture day at their carers centre. A list of activities, networking and events was provided for carers who wanted to feel valued.

We had the game room and Raffle ticket event. Massage for those who have stress, aches and pains. Creative art sessions for those wanting to be……well creative. We also had laughter workshop, book readings and also my poetry reading (more on that later.)

I think most of all, carers who came along to the event wanted to network with others. They wanted to reduce isolation and link up with carers, staff and advocate to get support, information and to feel valued.

Since my poetry book “The Poetry book of mental health caring” was released in July 2022. Carers Lewisham was kind enough to offer me a poetry workshop. It is well known that over time, poetry can contribute to forms of culture. Most if not all my poems focus on the aspect of the caring experience. The poems look to raise the awareness of those providing mental health care. That means providing unpaid care to someone suffering mental illness.

At the book reading and poetry workshop, we had other carers reading from their poems which they have developed. Tess read a wonderful poem and also Brenda.

I ran my workshop by reading a poem and then asking others to also choose a poem to read. We then reflected on the meaning and definitions of those poems. You can see the video of my poetry workshop below.

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.

You can watch Brenda’s video below

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.

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.