Category Archives: Carer Events

Review and updates on carer events I attend

Carers week 2017 – Caring Communities

10177241_747738765268892_5890142387668348507_nAt long last, Carers Week is here. From the 12th of June till the 18th of June, there is a week long awareness about carers and what they go through. As far as I know, 8 important charities are engaging to get communities across the UK involved, encouraging people to register events and pledge support in the run-up to Carers Week 2017.

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Mental Health Carers Forum – March 2017

Mental Health Open Forum

Welcome to another blog post from a carer in south London. Just a quick update, one of the projects I am interesting in helping to run is to be involved and help chair carer forums. I am hoping to write a blog at a later date regarding the importance of carer forums, but for now, this blog post is an update from the Carers Lewisham Mental Health Carer forum.

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The Triangle Of Care Conference

10177241_747738765268892_5890142387668348507_nWelcome to another blog from mental health carer Matthew Mckenzie. I have been meaning to do this blog at lot earlier, but unfortunately I have been fairly busy. Since being a carer for over 15 years and perhaps longer regarding my other loved ones. I have tried to make a commitment to engage with other carers and carer charities and organisations.

It just so happens that I was in luck because I managed to attend the Carers Trust Triangle of Care Conference, which took place on the 28th of April 2016. If you are a carer and have not heard about Carers Trust, let me briefly explain what they do?

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Who Cares for the Carer – Event

As a mental health carer, I feel honoured to be writing the first blog for West London Collaborative. I have heard quite a bit about an event regarding Carers of those using mental health services and I was interested on how such an event can impact the lives of carers.

Let me tell you more about the event which is called “Who cares for our carers?”. The event centers on a new mental health strategy called “Like Minded“, which aims to improve mental health and wellbeing across North West London. As with any mental health strategy it is very important to involve all members of the community, but unfortunately with carers it can be difficult for them to get their voices heard and have a strategy on how carers can feel included regarding their views on how they can feel supported and cared for.

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Carers Hub Lambeth Forum

Hi again. Welcome to another blog post by Matthew Mckenzie a mental health carer from Lewisham. It has been a while since my last blog post, I guess I have been so busy as of late. Since its the easter holidays I thought it would be a good time to write up a blog post on an event I go to every so often.

As noted in my other past carer blogs. I like to network with other carers in other boroughs of London and one of the best ways to do this is at carer organisations. One of the carer organisations I tend to visit is over in the borough of Lambeth. They usually have carer forums and on the 15th of March 2016, Carers Hub Lambeth held their forum which explored the use of creativity and relaxation for carers.

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Coaching Conversation Skills for Carers

Matthew MckenzieEver since I became a carer years ago for a close relative, I had soon begun to realise that they were not the same person I communicated to when they were well. If there is one major thing mental illness can take away from someone, it is their ability to communicate what is important to them. When a family member or carer has to step in to continue dialogue with their loved one, things can become heated, confused or just down right difficult.

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CarersUK National Summit Review

Welcome back to another one of my blog posts. I guess I have not done a carers post for a while, so it seems fitting to do a post on the CarersUK National Carers Summit, which was held on the 13th of Novemeber 2014. This was an impressive Summit and I do admit the Clifford Chance building is certainly stylish.


I am sure I may have mentioned CarersUK in one or two of my posts already and you might have actually seen the CarersUK link off my carers site list, but if you are still not sure what is CarersUK all about. Let me point out a bit about the organisation.


Basically in a nutshell CarersUK give expert advice, information and support to all different types of carers, but not only that. CarersUK fundraise, the lobby the UK government, raise awareness of carers and try to support other carers to get involved in the carers movement.

Here is a brief video about CarersUK.

CarersUK have several important messages which I heard a few times at their National summit. These being :-

“You do not have to care alone” or “If only I had known” and many more important motto’s for carers.

Now, I am a member of CarersUK myself and often pop on to their carers forum every so often. I have even phoned CarersUK for advice and even if I did not get the advice I could have hoped for, then at least someone was on the other line who at least listened to me.

So why did I decide to take some of my precious carer’s time and head off the their national summit or AGM? Well there were several reasons.

1. CarersUK is BIG, if you have been a carer for a while then you should have heard of them.  I was very curious to see what CarersUK have been up to and wanted to experience what their AGM was like.

2. I also wanted to meet and see how many other carers turn up, I felt if there was a chance to form a network or make a connection then it has to be at this event. I have to be honest and state it is not so easy to get a majority of carers in one place. Why is this? Carers just do not have the time. Time for one thing is a precious commodity for carers, but if I at least shook a hand of another carer or spoke to a carer then at least I felt I was not alone.

3. Other reasons I wanted to attend the event is to gain information and to be part of the special occasion. I could not attend the previous event because it was fully booked, I was not happy about this, but this time I was not going to miss this AGM. I did not specifically go there to ask questions, I felt it was just nice to be there and feel part of the carers movement, it was nice to belong and to not feel alone any more.

There were numerous others of reasons why I wanted to be there, but anyway what happened at the AGM? What could I remember?

Well I met up with long time carer and carer representative Bridget Jones who has been working so hard in the field to spread carer awareness at the mental health trust South London and Maudsley, both Bridget and myself planned to attend the event a while back.


Bridget and myself were so excited to visit the building and hear of any new developments, but in the back of my mind I knew there were going to be some difficult questions asked of CarersUK. For one I have noticed the austerity measures and cuts beginning to bite into social care.

The thing is, carers are trying to protect the vulnerable, which is their loved ones, but such cuts, bedroom tax and austerity measures always hits the vulnerable first.

As I walked into the building and collected my pass, I was impressed by the space and size of the area. The staff were welcoming and very friendly, I even bumped into fellow South London & Maudsley carer Governor Angela Flood, plus I also managed to shake hands with Heléna Herklots who is the CarersUK CEO as she greeted other carers into the auditorium, which I felt was one of the highlights since I know CEOs of big organisations can be distance or very busy to notice everyone.

Eventually Brigdet, Angela and myself sat down to hear the welcome from Professor David Greyson the chairman of CarersUK. He gave a very good speech, but a fair bit of my attention was on other carers and the surroundings. I also noticed some excellent and very challenging questions about the financial situation of carers.

We also got to hear from Heléna who gave a review of 2014 and what carersUK have been up to. I picked up a few points and those were

– How CarersUK have managed to increase their advice service from 2 days to 5 days a week
– Developed more training to NHS Staff
– Produced an e-learning package
– Plus producing leaflets for carers since not all carers have access to the internet
– CarersUK have increased membership and one of the major members is NHS England, which I was very glad to hear
– CarersUK have also made an impact on the Care act by getting parent carers included in the care act.
– It has also been a difficult year, as I have mentioned before. A lot of carers have been hit by bedroom tax, social care cuts and more cuts are on the way.

One thing that kept popping up at the AGM is that a number of CarersUK centers have closed due to limited funds or not being able to adapt systems CarersUK has tried to set up. It is important that carers who have had issues with CarersUK had to be heard and to be honest I expected the tough questions and statements to be raised at the AGM.


We then had a 10 minute break where I spoke the Emily Holzhausen who is the director of policy and public affairs for CarersUK. I have met Emily quite a few times and she has spoken at the SLaM family and carers listening event a few times. I can certainly say that Emily works very hard for carers since it can be difficult to get someone of her stature to speak at such NHS trust events.

I also took time to make a pledge off the carersUK pledge wall and hoped to do just a bit more for CarersUK, but I know my time is very limited since not only am I still caring, but having to hold down a job and push forward carer awareness in South London and sometimes beyond.


After the break we got to hear from more carer questions and I noticed another carer Kelvin Wheelan asking some interesting, but tough questions at the CarersUK board.

There were also questions of the trustee members and stating if they represented carers on their gender and race, which is a very difficult balance, but I did agree with the counter argument that if there were such criticisms then other carers should put themselves forward.

Next to present was Gavin Macgregor Director of communications and Engagement, plus we heard from Rucksana Mahmood who is the local ambassador in Glasgow and a member of the Carers Scotland Committee. We also heard from Denise Lee who is one of the CarersUK Adviceline volunteer who spoke passionately about her role to carers. We also got to listen to Caroline Toll who is another CarersUK ambassador in Somerset.

Unfortunately I could not stay long for the carersUK AGM, but I did get to listen to several poems from Cheryl Moskowitz and also from the short story winner Val Ormrod. As I write this blog now, I can still hear their voices as they read out their stories and poems from the AGM.

However, this blog is not mainly about what happened at the AGM, I wanted to put my 2 cents about the carers movement, I want to put my feet on the side of the fence, but which side?


Well throughout the AGM, I did hear tough questions being asked of CarersUK. The thing is big organisations have big responsibilities and I do notice CarersUK shoulders are broad, but I also know that carers can complain and are not always silent as one may notice.

There are of course millions of carers who are isolated and do not know of their role or do not get any support, but I could not help notice some unfair questions being thrown at CarersUK. Yes, I am sure some of the CarersUK staff get paid well for what they do, but I still feel that job is not the easiest of roles. I also notice CarersUK need support as well, but from who? you ve guessed it, us carers.

It is a shame that carers in the UK have to muster up more energy and determination to help the carers movement, but I feel its not just any carer can take up that role. I feel it takes a carer who has the energy, spirit and heart to give not only care for their loved ones, but also to support their carer organisation or centers.

If I was talking about the banker movement, then yes, it would be far easier for other bankers to support their financial sector, but alas it is us carers having to spread the message.

Its not that CarersUK is forcing people to help in the movement, but I am aware that if we are to be heard on our struggles then we all need to work together, but I am aware that the system does not work for all carers and there will be tough decisions ahead. Carers will be let down and yes CarersUK have struggled to be there for some carers, but I also know resources are hard to come by.

So I guess the side of the fence I am sitting on is to support CarersUK. I feel it does no good complaining about them or blaming them for too many things, which of course some things are clearly out of their control.

Plus thinking back to the AGM, I cannot remember any carer in the audience thanking carersUK for their hard work that they have done so far, although I could be wrong since I had to leave around lunch time.


Overall I was impressed with the AGM and I felt all speakers spoke from their heart, which is what I want to hear most of all. I want to see the passion in the movement, I also want to see carers rally to support not just carersUK, but many other carers organisations as well. I want carers to link up and support other carers. Us carers can support fellow carers by listening, giving advice and pointing to other carers where to find good resources.

I wish to thank all CarersUK staff for running a successful AGM, which kept to its time limit and keeping my interest (which is not an easy thing to do). Us carers need to connected more than ever now because we are at risk due to cuts and the care bill although promising has not been tested in an uncertain society. With big changes in politics, the NHS and the community, we need the big organisations that cannot be so easily ignored. Us carers can usually be ignored because we are not often heard, we just continue to struggle on caring, but rest assured when carers speak, I know carersUK will amplify our voices.


Let our caring voices ring out “We do not have to care alone“.

Carers Lewisham AGM 2014 Review

Matthew MckenzieWelcome back to another of my blog posts. If you do not know already, I tend to blog about caring, especially caring for those suffering mental ill health, if I am not blogging about caring, then I review events on psychiatry, psychology or sociology, if not reviewing events, I help on mental health promotion and also review the odd audio lecture.



However this particular blog post is about the Carer’s Lewisham Annual General Meeting. This AGM took place on the 7th of November 2014 over at the Methodist Hall church in Albion Way.

Methodist Hall church

The Carers Lewisham AGM was about the recent developments Carers Lewisham have been up to, plus a chance to hear from 5 carers talking about their journeys as carers and how Carers Lewisham has helped them.

Before I continue, what exactly is Carers Lewisham? What do they do? Here is one of their videos about Philip the young carers advocate.

Now continuing about what Carers Lewisham does.  Taken from their site. Carers Lewisham supports Carers in the London Borough of Lewisham from aged 5 upwards. They provide a range of services including advice, information, emotional support, breaks, opportunities to meet other carers, time out from caring activities such as relaxation days and well being sessions; coping strategies, specialist support for parent carers, carers of people with dementia, carers of people with mental health problems, older carers and carers who are caring for someone who is nearing the end of their life.

So you see Carers Lewisham does a lot for carers and as a carer myself, all this help is appreciated, considering that us carers are often unappreciated at times. I was so pleased with all the support Carers Lewisham has given me over the years, I was more than happy to be one of the 5 carers to do a talk at their AGM.

I will not go into too much over the Carers Lewisham AGM, but what tends to happen there? Well basically we get the minutes from the previous year’s AGM. We then got to ask questions on any matter’s arising. Members are provided with the previous years Annual Report and Audited Accounts from the previous year and we get to hear any other business.

It has been a difficult year due many cuts in services and I am sure a lot of other charities are facing similar difficulties, so Carers Lewisham was no exception. I know they have been working very hard on behalf of carers like myself who also face a tough time almost trying to survive.

However from the past year, Carers Lewisham have still been very busy and have done several outstanding Achievements. They have gained the ‘Center of Excellence Award’ from Carers Trust. Carers Lewisham have also developed their social media communications and their Ebay shop is going strong. Plus they have supported hundred’s more carers and saved carers thousands of pounds of legal fees by helping them with Power of Attorney’ forms.

Carers Lewisham have done all this and more. You might have noticed I often blog about other carer centers, but being since I am from the London Borough of Lewisham, I ll always have Carers Lewisham close to my heart.

After the AGM was finished, the guests and members at the Methodist Hall Church got to hear from 5 carers stories about their journey. I felt so privileged to tell my story and journey, I felt the day was quite special to me, even though deep down my heart aches with sorrow for who I look after.

Matthew Mckenzie

Every carer who spoke at the AGM about their journey struggled to hold back their emotions, all the 5 carers let the audience know how much their caring role has affected them and how Carers Lewisham has sort to get them through a difficult and challenging role.

Another carer story told was from Kevin Wheelan who told the audience about who he is looking after and how difficult the journey was for himself. Kevin has been active with many organisations and groups. I could say that Kevin is a great spokesperson for carers.


Overall I felt the AGM went rather well and it was with sad regret to hear the CEO of Carers Lewisham Diana Jones is to leave the charity after some months. The reason why? She is compelled to care for her close relatives.

Diana Jones

I have known Diana many years and from what I have seen and will remember of her is that smile and putting carers close to her heart.

Here is a video below with some hints and tips from Diana.

Going back to my story, I said the usual things about my journey, but if I have not thanked all the staff at carers Lewisham then I do apologize, I have special thanks for Jey Siva who has helped me through the most difficult periods of my life.

Jey Siva

Jey has attended meetings with me and advocated on my behalf, even outside her working hours. You could say both Jey and myself have walk the journey together.

Who knows what the future may bring on our caring journeys, but one thing will always remain is that I will never forget the great support Carers Lewisham has provided for myself.

Here’s to the great memories and adventures to come.


Carers and the importance of Recovery Colleges


Welcome to another one of my carers blog posts. My name is Matthew Mckenzie and I am a carer for someone suffering mental health difficulties. I feel its important for carers to speak out more, so that way we won’t risk being alienated, isolated and disregarded. We carers and families give so much to society, but as yet we still plod along trying to cope with caring.

One thing I noticed about being a carer for so many years is the problem of being thrown into providing care without any idea what I am doing. I questioned myself on the following over the years.

– Am I providing care correctly?
– Wondering if I am sure if things go downhill it was partly my fault
– What is my caree thinking about how I am trying to support them?
– How am I looking after my own care needs?
– What support should I be getting?
– What happens if I get stressed in trying to talk to my caree?
– How should I react if my caree gets upset with me?

I feel that if you are a carer reading this, then all these questions must have come across your mind at some point in your journey. I am not stating that caring is the toughest job in the world, but at times a carer can be out on a limb, a carer can sometimes end up relying on guess work. This is not often the best situation to be in and I feel more support should be offered to carers in understanding their role and providing adequate care without neglecting themselves.

Well over the years I have learnt quite a few things from carers support groups that I have attended in the past and that I still do attend, one of the things I had learnt at these groups were courses that can help carers.

Some of the information about courses carers can attend came from the group leader, sometimes other carers passed on such information via word of mouth. Eventually I plucked up the courage and decided to enroll on a day course on understanding mental health from a carers perspective. I never looked back and the course had helped me immensely.

Embed from Getty Images

Fast forward to 3 years in the present and I found myself attending more courses regarding carers of those suffering mental health issues or those with lived experiences. These courses ranged from a couple of hours to evening classes spanning 2 months. Maybe one day I ll blog about how I found how helpful those courses were.

Eventually I found out about recovery colleges, at first I thought such colleges were only for those suffering mental health problems. I checked out the course list from the “Central and North West London” recovery college site and found out some of the courses were useful for carers, but the problem was that I was not from that area, so I felt a little disheartened, however if you do use Central and North West London services then please check out their recovery college site at

So then since I am over in South London, what could I do to educate myself and help in my own recovery as a carer? Eventually I found out from “South London and Maudsley” that they have their own recovery college. It was not long before I was browsing through their prospectus which can be found here

SLaM Recovery logo

I eventually found several courses that was interesting for my field, but one course stood out more for me than the other courses off that prospectus. This course was called “Carers Communicating for Change”. The workshop states the following.

“This workshop focuses on the importance of communication within the caring role.

Sharing experiences and increased knowledge of mental health issues can help to reduce anxiety for both the carer and person experiencing mental health difficulties.”

Without a moments notice, I booked myself for this course and you know what was even better? This course was free. I could not believe it! Although quite a few courses are free for carers and some of them might not be free, but its usually good to start with the courses that are free; mainly because I feel carers struggle with finances almost every day.

On the 14th of July 2014, I managed to attend the course, although I arrived a little late due to a train cancellation. The course was held over at the Maudsley Learning Centre, which is a lovely building centered on health and wellbeing events, courses, seminars and community get togethers. You can check out the Maudsley Learning site here

Maudsley Learning Centre

Continuing about my experiences on the course, I arrived to hear the course leader talking about how carers need to watch out for the pitfalls when they are communicating with others, especially with who their care for that being the “caree”. I then thought to myself “Hey! this sounds right up my street”, and I began to sat down and listen.

The course co-lecturer was showing slides of different animals off the screen. Each animal resembled different characteristics of communicative behavior.

I remember some of them animals shown as :-


I am sure there were a few more animals, but those are the ones that stuck in my mind, but why animals? Well for a start we can easily recognize animal behavior and if I go through those I have mentioned, you can slightly understand how useful the examples were

Ostrich – Tends to bury themselves in the sand ignoring caring issues
Rhinoceros – Does not negotiate and always takes “charge” with directing questions, causes others to fear them.
Kangaroo – Protects the caree and does not allow self recovery or motivation
Dolphin – The perfect balance, supportive and understanding.

I will not go on too much about the course because I might end up spoiling it for others who may attend the course some day, however one of the key benefits of this course is that it allowed carers to speak about their experiences. The good point of this is that I learnt from other carers experiences and there were several times where I spoke about my own caring experiences. This is where I felt that I could relate to other carers, where I do not feel isolated every so often in the community or in society.

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Another thing I liked about the course where the exercises where we could experience the difference between directed questions and open questions. I still need to work on how to ask open questions, but they are very important in communication skills. I felt the 2 hour course was a great asset for my caring role and hope they continue to run such a course for the next semester.

Recovery colleges seem to be starting up around many mental health trusts, so if you are a service user, carer or even staff member, it is worth checking out such colleges. My reasons for attending these colleges are :-

– They can aide in recovery as a tool
– You can learn about the course and also learn about yourself
– They are a great networking opportunity
– They are usually free
– Courses are geared to your situation

I am sure there are a lot more things I have missed out off this list, but you get the picture. I hope to attend more courses soon even if they are not held at recovery colleges, perhaps I ll feedback on my blog how those courses turned out.