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

Carers Week 2022 – Being Valued and supported.

Welcome one and all, especially fellow carers.

So it is now the start of Carer’s week 2022. A week I have been waiting for all year and I hope you have as well. What is so special about Carer’s Week? It is a chance to use your experience of providing unpaid care to stand up and be counted for your efforts.

Carer’s Week is a collaboration of many charitable organistions seeking to make life easier for millions of carers around the country. The UK has been through difficult challenges over the years with the COVID-19 situation and now recently the cost of living. We also have the revamp of the mental health act and the new health and social care bill, which seeks to make the systems fairer to carers and those they care for.

However many carers around the country are wary of new laws and bills and to be honest unpaid carers have not come well off from past laws. It is so important the government, local authority and health providers seek engagement from unpaid carers regarding new bills and policies.

Going back to carers week, there are many themes and campaigns taking place. The latest one is on the “A Recovery and espite Plan for Unpaid Carers” There is an open letter to the prime minister signed by seven CEOs of major national charities.

  • Helen Walker, Chief Executive, Carers UK
  • Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director, Age UK
  • Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive, Carers Trust
  • Sally Light, Chief Executive, MND Association
  • Danny Sriskandarajah, Chief Executive, Oxfam GB
  • Mark Winstanley, Chief Executive, Rethink Mental Illness
  • Jacqui Cannon, Chief Executive, The Lewy Body Society

The theme for carers week 2022

Each year, carers week has a theme to highlight the importance of unpaid carers and the challenges they go through. This year is no different and the theme for this year is “Making caring visible, valued and supported”. So why such a theme this year?

Personally it is well known that carers can end up being hidden because they are caring behind closed doors, but there are other reasons for carers to be hidden. Not many people think they are caring and just get on with it, some feel that caring carries stigma and to make matters difficult, health and social care systems often fail to identify carers. It is known that even if a carer is identified then there is always a risk that the carer can slip through the net. The reason for this is caring heavily relies on the relationship to the “cared for”, especially caring for mental illness. If that relationship fails then caring can be at risk and the carer could be at risk.

What about being valued? Is caring valued in society? Is caring valued in the community? To be really blunt about it, I am afraid caring suffers from being valued. Society does not deem the sacrifices others have to pay to care a worthwhile endeavour. It could be that people are compelled to care and that in itself could be the reward, but that reward is countered by the harsh challenges carers have to face, especially financial. Unpaid carers put so much on the line that they themselves risk their own health and wellbeing. It is so important we not only value carers but the importance of caring itself.

What about being supported as a carer? Many carers complain health and social care systems fail to support them. The risk is if the support for the carer is lacking, then this can cause a trickle down effect to the patient or “cared for”. The risk is the patient suffers at the end of the day because the carer is not getting that vital support.

I call for ALL carers to use this week as an opportunity to stand up and be counted, be diplomatic in your efforts, but make yourself known and be proud you have been there all this time to give a care. We are not asking much, just only to be identified, valued and supported.

Just to note, I will be doing a Share & Learn session at Carers UK. I wish to share my knowledge of the experience of care regarding ethnicity, mental health and carer wellbeing using my poetry. If you are a carer, see the link below to book

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

Experiencing mental health caregiving – Carer peer support

Welcome back to a summary of chapter 3 of my book “Experiencing mental health caregiving”

This blog focuses on my 2nd book – Experiencing mental health caregiving. The book helps raise awareness of unpaid carers providing care to someone close suffering mental illness. The book highlights the experiences of providing unpaid caring.

For Chapter 3 – “Carer befriending and peer support” I asked carers several questions, but this video will look at the first question that being “What does carer peer support mean to you?

The reason I asked such a question was down to how can carers relate to others when caring can be a private and personal experience. Do carers know they can get support from others to reduce stigma and increase carer knowledge?

Just like the videos I have done on my 2nd book, I will sum up a few responses from those regarding “Carer Befriending and peer support”.

To check out the video summary see link below

So going back to my book, chapter 3 got responses regarding carer peer support, you can see the responses below.

One carer Jacqui Darlington responded

“A carer peer is someone who can offer emotional and practical support to another carer by using their own lived experiences which may enable them to overcome barriers, challenges and fears to achieve whatever it is they may need. They may also be known as Experts by Experience .”

I not only asked knowledgeable carers, but also engaged with mental health trusts.

Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust rep responded

“We train people up as peer support workers or carer peer support workers. We are now employing them in the jobs at the NHS trust. I think as a carer peer support worker, the difference between that and pure peer support worker is that the carer peer has lived experience in caring. .”

One last point – Another carer responded

“To me, carer peer means supporting a carer who may be struggling with the sometimes overwhelming difficulties experienced when caring for a loved one with mental health issues. Being there for that carer, sharing personal experiences and showing an understanding of what they are going through”

I asked 8 other questions for Chapter 3,

  • Have you experienced carer befriending and what did it feel like?
  • Where should carer peer support be located?
  • Do you think there is enough education on carer peer support?
  • Would you befriend other carers?
  • Is there a line or boundary to carer peer support?
  • Is there a difference between carer peer support and service user peers?
  • Why is carer peer support lagging behind?

The responses I will cover in a later video, but to sum up What does carer peer support mean to you?

I noticed that lived experience was critical to becoming a peer carer. To share your understanding and knowledge of the caring role and help those new to caring is vital in forming a connection.

if you are interested about mental health carers, you can buy my book on the link below

Bromley, Greenwich, Bexley & Lewisham Ethnic Carer Forum March 2022

Welcome to the March 2022 update of my Ethnic mental health carers forum. The forum is aimed at those from a diverse ethnic background who care for someone suffering serious mental illness. The forum also covers areas under South London & Maudsley NHS trust and also Oxleas NHS foundation trust, but forum does allow ethnic carers to attend from other service areas. Just to note, I am also the chair of Carers UK Ethnic or BAME advisory group.

Speakers for my March 2022 forum where

  • Abigail Babatunde – Research Associate on the Advance Statements Project (AdStAC)
  • Karen Edmunds – Head of Equality and Human Rights presenting on Oxleas Equalities projects

Karen Edmund presents on Equalities updates at Oxleas NHS services

Karen felt that after the introductions of members of the BAME group, that Oxleas are in the same place as some other NHS trusts are in terms of carer involvement, but she admitted there is more work to do. Karen talked about how they are developing what’s called an “Involvement hub”, which is been led by Jacqueline, who’s Oxleas NHS assistant director of involvement with her team.

Karen feels there has been reasonable amount of service user involvement, where people work with experienced practitioners, but when it comes to carers and community organisations, there is a lot of work to do and they haven’t been quite maybe quite as good as some other NHS Trusts out there.

Karen spoke on the following topics on what Oxleas is working on regarding equalities.

Workforce Equality:

  • Workforce Race Equality Standard (WRES) -reporting and annual action plan
  • Workforce Disability Equality Standard (WDES) – reporting and annual action plan
  • Supporting our five staff networks (BAMEx, Disability, LGBTQ+, Mental Health, Women)
  • Building a Fairer Oxleas (BAFO)
  • Policy development
  • Enquiries related to workforce equality

Service User/Patient and Carer Equality

  • Accessible Information Standard (AIS)
  • Policy development
  • Patient complaints related to equality issues
  • Manage the Interpreting contract
  • Manage our multifaith chaplain + Chaplaincy contract with Lewisham and Greenwich Trust
  • Service User Inequalities Group (new)
  • Patient and Carer Race Equality Framework (new)

Staff and patients / service users / carers

  • Equality Delivery System 2 (EDS2) annual report
  • Public Sector Equality Duty
  • Equality and Human Rights Policy, Equality and Diversity training
  • Freedom of Information requests related to equality

Lastly to enable Oxleas to become an early adopter of the Patient and Carer Race Equality Framework (SLaM have been involved in the pilot phase)

Karen then spoke about building a Fairer Oxleas Delivered actions Year 1

Improving cultural competency:

  • Cultural intelligence and inclusive leadership training for the Executive team and 50 senior managers
  • Inclusive leadership workshops open to all managers
  • Comfortable talking about race workshops open to all managers
  • Living our values training for managers to deliver a values session with their team
  • ‘In Each Other’s Shoes’ film about microaggressions, plus a guide on microaggressions
  • Team talks to show ‘In Each Other’s Shoes’ and discuss it
  • Building a Fairer Oxleas section on the Ox (our intranet)
  • Race Resource pack with articles, short films, and useful links to external resources

The outcome will look to improve all experiences of their Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff, which will help improve the experience of Black, Asian and minority ethnic service users and carers

Karen explained The NHS Race and Health Observatory review February 2022 found that:

Ethnic minority groups experienced clear inequalities in access to Improving Access to Psychological Therapies IAPTs; overall, ethnic minority groups were less likely to refer themselves to IAPT and less likely to be referred by their GPs, compared with White British people.

Evidence was identified for inequalities in the receipt of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) with ethnic minority people with psychosis less likely to be referred for CBT, and less likely to attend as many sessions as their White counterparts

The review provided strong evidence of clear, very large and persisting ethnic inequalities in compulsory admission to psychiatric wards, particularly affecting Black groups, but also Mixed Black & White groups and South Asian groups.

There was also evidence of harsher treatment for Black groups in inpatients wards, e.g., more likely to be restrained in the prone position or put into seclusion.

More bad news was on how black children were treated in the NHS

Parents reported their children facing the same barriers to accessing services as reported for adult mental health services. Two studies of young Black men showed that they were deterred from seeking help by their knowledge of injustices in mental health services relating to Black Caribbean and Black African populations. Two large national studies found that ethnic minority children were more likely to be referred to CAMHS via social services, education or criminal justice pathways. This was particularly stark for Black children who were 10 times more likely to be referred to CAMHS via social services (rather than through the GP) relative to White British children.

Karen then talked about Oxleas new Service User Inequalities Group

She then moved to its aims which was to explain that it will help deliver Oxleas’s strategy on service user access and inequalities

This will be done by looking at their data on the ethnicity, disability, gender identity, religion, and sexual orientation of patients compared to the local population which will lead to clear actions to tackle inequity of access, experience and outcomes.

Karen the talked about how Supporting Oxleas staff to deliver inclusive care on Proposed actions to tackle inequalities

This is on how all services have a generic email for patient contact to provide an alternative to phone contact Clear information in a range of formats in plain language on what each service provides, referral criteria, and how to get access Disability access guides to key sites available on public website.

Oxleas NHS will be an early adopter of the Patient and Carer Race Equality Framework Engagement with local communities and use this feedback to target service development where it’s needed most Scope care pathways where we can pilot inclusive assessments, factoring culture, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity Patient experience data by protected characteristics will be routinely produced, analysed and reviewed by services to identify differences of experience and then plan actions to address these.

Questions from Carer members

  • You shown what Oxleas are doing for CAMHS and Adult service, but what about older Adults?
  • Its an interesting and important presentation, but I am wondering why a white woman is presenting on equalities regarding disadvantages of black people, does Oxleas employ representing the communities it serves?
  • With the impact of COVID on ethnic communities, what does Oxleas have in place to reduce the impact?
  • I am interested in how Oxleas are going to work with the Patient Carer Race Equalities Framework, arent Oxleas service area’s mainly white?
  • Lastly a question from myself is I do not see hardly any ethnic patient/carer grassroot groups that Oxleas is able to engage with. How will ethnic patient and carer groups be empowered so they SEEK engagement and hold Oxleas accountable on services to ethnic communities?

Abigail presents on the Advance Statements Project (AdStAC)

Abigail spoke on how South London & Maudsley are working to promote advance statements for Black and African, Caribbean people. This is because of the high detention rates and especially with black people being more likely to be detained under the Mental Health Act.

It is important to promote why having to work with staff service users, and carers and supporters to understand how to get advanced choice documents or advanced statements can work for black people.

Carer Poem : The Journey by Matthew McKenzie

Welcome everyone especially unpaid carers. I am preparing a lot of things for Carers Week 2022. It looks to be an exciting set of activities for carers and those that work with them across the UK.

I am also been busy working on my new book for this year. It is a poetry book on the experiences of providing care to those suffering mental illness. This is from the perspective of an unpaid carer.

Here is one of my latest videos on the Poem “The Journey” and also a reflection of that poem.

The poem is from a book I am working on is called “The Poetry book of mental health caring” as you can see from the cover below

The Poetry book of Mental Health Caring

I am hoping to release the book on Amazon this year, perhaps around the Autumn, but it is not just a book containing poems. The book will ask readers to reflect regarding the nature of the poem. One of the NHS trust’s I talked to felt it could be useful for training, even though a lot of focus is on unpaid carers to reflect on the nature of the poem and how it could help them.

Anyway, I am hoping to blog more of my poems soon.

May Carer News Updates 2022

The latest edition of my online carer, mental health and ethnic mental health news is out for May.

Click below to view latest carer news for May

May 2022 Carer News

For the May edition we have

Lewisham Council Unpaid Carers Pre-Consultation – Video from Lewisham council showing consultation with carers and voluntary groups on what will help carers.

The Health and Care Act: six key questions – The Kings Fund answers 6 key questions on the Health and Care act, which should be vital reading for unpaid carers and those who engage with them.

NHS England: Dementia – Department of Health and Social Care written question – Response from the government regarding NHS progress for dementia care. Keep an eye for other written questions from the online newsletter.

Write to your MP this Carers Week calling for a Recovery and Respite Plan for unpaid carers – Excellent template for carers to write to their MP.

Mental Health Services: Ethnic Groups – Department of Health and Social Care written question – Government response to the Patient Carer Race Equality Framework.

SIGN UP TO NEWS SITE HERE

Bromley, Greenwich, Bexley & Lewisham Ethnic Carer Forum February 2022

Welcome to a brief update of my february ethnic mental health carer forum. As usual the forum is an engagement platform for those caring for someone suffering mental illness from an ethnic background. I run the forum via zoom with the support of several mental health trusts.

Speakers at my carer forum for February were

  • Lisa Fannon the Public Health Training and Development Manager for Lewisham updating on Health inequalities
  • Ellie Wharton Senior Project Manager for Health Innovation Network
  • Engagement from the Police on mental health
  • Lisa Fannon presents on health inequalities project

Lisa wanted to update us on the health inequalities project. Since last month there was a discussion with KINARA who attended and talked about the work that they are undertaking in the community, specifically around the Birmingham and Lewisham health inequalities review that is being undertaken with the African and Caribbean communities.

That work has now been concluded and she has received a report. Lisa hopes that they will be able to launch all of that information with an event that’s taking place soon. Lisa reminded that some of us may have received the invite to that event already, but she wanted to ensure that as a community group that we were aware what is happening.

The event will be overseen and organised by Public Health Lewisham. They will also plan to have a additional event following the one just mentioned and it will specifically be for community members. This will be essentially a second in series of events around health inequalities where they are aiming to bring together community groups, and members of the health and social care and health and social care leaders talk about health inequalities. Lisa wants this to be done in partnership with the health and well-being to address health inequalities in Lewisham, and bring together everybody to discuss the situation.

There of course will be opportunities to look at some of the achievements of this work, but also to discuss further action on what needs to be done to tackle health inequalities. Lisa mentioned they will look at what kind of plans that they are hoping to undertake across this year and what future needs is happening at the event.

The event will run in the evening at a Community Centre, where she has sent in advance of this meeting, information about the event to Matthew.

  • Ellie Wharton presents on the Health Innovation Network

Ellie wanted to tell us about the mental health patient safety network event, which is part of their mental health safety improvement programme. Ellie apologised for the acronyms flying around on the programme, but thanked us for inviting her to join and speak at our ethnic carer group.

Ellie agreed with some members that health inequalities is such an important topic, which is why they have chosen it for their second event to focus for the safety network. Ellie talked about what the Health Innovation Network is, which is an Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) for south London, one of 15 AHSNs across England.

The AHSN exist to speed up the best in health and care. They have been commissioned by NHS England and Improvement to focus on Mental Health Safety. Which involves developing a Safety network and supporting quality improvement work in certain areas (such as restrictive practice).

Their principles are central to how the programme runs:
• co-design with people with lived experience
• Creating shared learning, connection and Joy
• Foundations of systematic QI
• Engaging with inequalities where they exist
• Working with their foundations and all the good things that already exist

Ellie then pointed out a member of my ethnic carer forum and stated one of the members was involved in the event. This is when the carer member spoke on her section regarding health inequalities and carers.

Ellie then talked about the mental health safety network.

The network is an interactive designed to bring together individuals across the system with the shared goal of improving mental health safety it is co-hosted by the HIN and the 3 south London Mental Health Trusts (South London & Maudsley NHS Trust, Oxleas NHS Trust and South West London & St George NHS Trust). It’s purpose is to create value through sharing learning, creating connections and building energy and capability in safety improvement

The event welcomes people who share the MH safety network’s goals of improving mental health safety. Registration is open to people with lived experience of mental health services, including carers, clinical and managerial staff from NHS, independent and private health and social care providers, commissioning leads, local authorities, voluntary sector partners, police, emergency services and other system partners.

Ellie then talked to us about the agenda of the event.

  • Mental health Police engagement from South London

The forum gets engagement from the police every now and then. This is mostly because the police have an interest in mind while helping those in a crisis, they want to connect and reassure carers. The police talked about what sites they cover this being Sutton, Croydon and Bromley although its quite a small team.

Their main sort of role and objectives is being a direct liaison with the NHS and mental health trusts. There are other objectives dealing with assaults against NHS, racial assaults against NHS staff where the perpetrators is having mental health issue.

The police then talked about section 136 and how they have been dealing with a lot of escalations. The police think the section is being overused. They think there’s things that they can do as a team to prevent that. There was also some talk about what they can do to help with people out in the streets dealing directly with mental health issues.

The police try and get out and about to the hospitals as well. They have got a police liaison officer that works at the hospital and who deals with crime at other Hospitals.

In a nutshell the police work directly with mental health patients once they were coming into contact with police.

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

SW London MH Carer Forum February 2022

Welcome to a brief update of my South West London carers peer group. The reason this update is brief is because we had no speakers planned to attend and sometimes carer members just update on their situation.

A quick reminder is this group is aimed at those who are caring for someone with serious mental illness, they could be using the services of the local mental health trust South West London & St Georges or perhaps the person they are caring for is not in recipt of services. The carer group is a peer, engagement, networking and empowerment group covering the 5 boroughs SWLSTG covers (Richmond, Wandsworth, Merton, Kingston & Sutton).

For february we had a very good turn out and some new members. Most of the discussion was on sharing knowledge to those new to caring or those who were not sure what support they could get.

As usual I wont report anything confidential between members, only when speakers talk about issues that those unable to attend can catch up on.

Fast forward to May and engagement has been increasing between my groups and engagement from NHS England & Improvement and the local Healthwatches. Even if members struggle to feedback, they can at least understand what are the important issues of the day.

Mental Health poem by Matthew McKenzie

Welcome to my latest blog post. It has been a while since I have uploaded a poem. I have written close to 65 poems on the carer experience since the start of this year. Slowly a fair number of poems will be uploaded to my YouTube Playlist. The poems will play by themselves.

Plus I have added some podcasts of my poems

My latest poem is called “Confusion”

This poem is quite dark, but tells an often all too familiar story where the carer is trying to care for someone who has relapsed into mental illness. There are no beds or resources for the person who is very sick and thus the carer is confused on what to do. She will stick it out and try and cope as she watches her ‘loved one’ descend into madness.

Confusion by Matthew McKenzie

I sit and wait wondering what is next
Too scared to look at whats before me
The phone sits on the table, i am not sure who to call
I just dont know…I have tried before

The sounds…so distressing, so much is on me
but time is going so slow as my mind torments me
I look at him as his eyes look straight past
My heart sinks as my mind is harassed

Minute by minute..hour by hour
Not a word heard or a form of contact
I sit and wait wondering whats next
confusion takes me and I cannot find the solution.