This Carers Week (8th-14th June 2020) we supported the theme of the week - Making Caring Visible - by connecting unpaid carers to representatives from health and social care services in Hertfordshire so they could express their concerns and have their queries answered. We also provided opportunities for unpaid carers to meet up online and have time to themselves.
There were three online sessions with representatives from Hertfordshire County Council’s Adult Care Services and one with Hertfordshire Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (HPFT) where unpaid carers found out about service provision during the COVID-19 lockdown. The sessions also outlined recovery plans for activities that had paused or been reduced during the pandemic.
Hertfordshire County Council told carers that:
• Although requests for Carers’ Assessments were down, they had continued to provide assessments, mainly over the phone.
• They had focused on supporting unpaid carers, people shielding or with care needs, by working with organisations like us that they help fund. They also delivered over 61,000 food and toiletry parcels to people shielding.
• They had extended the times of the direct payment support service helpline.
• They would now plan the re-opening of services that had been closed such as some day centres.
The response to carers’ questions about when they can visit loved ones in care homes was that there is no timescale for this, but many places are allowing garden visits and using technology for virtual visits. The advice is to speak to staff at the home about visiting or communicating with your loved one.
Carers also asked what ways of working the Council could take forward and a suggestion was the use of IT for virtual meetings to save time and money.
Of the Q&A sessions carer Jeff said: “I think the Zoom meetings were well organised. The speakers presented well and were quite open and upfront answering the questions which people asked.” He added that at least online meetings through apps like Zoom enable carers and others to get together.
An art workshop we offered involved carers creating zentangles, pictures using repeating patterns. Parent carer Hannah, said: “I thoroughly enjoyed the session. It was relaxing and gave me a break. It’s important that Carers in Hertfordshire has continued to provide its support and courses during the COVID-19 situation so we don’t feel trapped.”
Throughout the week our staff and volunteers continued making keep in touch calls to carers and we issued 91 Carers’ Passport Discount Cards. We also had:
• An online legal planning workshop;
• A meeting on Zoom for dementia carers;
• Online meetings for our Watford Carers Support Hub and Carers’ Camera Club;
• A workshop for parent carers about supporting siblings of a child with SEND (special education needs or disability);
• Activities for young carers such as a competition to design a poster. We also launched a video about a project with the county’s health services to improve support for and communication with young carers;
• A bingo night, held thanks to our charity of the year partner Platinum Point, a business network group. The event raised a wonderful £900 – thank you to everyone who supported us; and
• Our Carewaves magazine that arrived through carers’ letterboxes. It included a poster people could put up in a window to celebrate carers and with our contact details if carers wanted support.
Michèle Stokes, our Chief Executive, thanked everyone involved in our Carers Week events and added: “A lot of caring is done behind closed doors and many people don’t identify themselves as carers, even when they support a child, parent, or someone close to them who couldn’t manage without them. With more people taking on a caring role due to coronavirus we want to ensure anyone caring for someone has the information or support they need or are entitled to, so carers please get in touch with us.”