Carers Week 2016 – Listening to Somerset’s Carers

Somerset County Council in partnership with Carers’ Voice Somerset is recognising the important role carers play in people’s lives during national Carers Week 2016 (6-10 June).

There are approximately 60,000 (1) people in Somerset who care for a relative or friend. However, often people do not recognise themselves to be carers and do not access support services, meaning that this number is likely to be much higher.

Carers do an amazing job supporting people and in the last year they’ve had their voice heard as part of the County Council’s, and local partners, pledge to listen and involve carers in developing future support services.

The County Council, the Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Carers’ Voice Somerset, an organisation that represents local carers, has helped carers to develop the Somerset ‘Commitment to Carers’. The ‘Commitment’ sets out what support carers say they need and what new and improved services should look like. Partner organisations are now working on an action plan to demonstrate how they will achieve the priorities in the ‘Commitment to Carers’.

Over 70 carers have been involved so far including a wide range of groups and organisations that deliver support to carers.
Some of the key things highlighted in the ‘Commitment’ are:
o Improved quality and access to information and advice
o Help with form filling
o Someone to talk to during and after caring for someone
o Flexible services to meet carers needs
o More support for young carers
o And organisations that work more effectively together.

Carers involved in the ‘Commitment to Carers’ said:

“I managed to attend several Carers Voice events and found them uplifting and interesting. In these times of financial crisis it is good to know that there are people out there fighting to get the carers voice heard where it matters. My caring role is very much caring for two people with mental health difficulties and despite the publicity and drive to take the stigma from mental health difficulties there is still a level of stigma which is hard to deal with and I do feel very isolated at times. Carers Voice has helped me to see a brighter future for myself and other mental health carers in Somerset”.

“I have more confidence now than at any time before that Carers’ Voice Somerset will achieve the goals it aims for. Carers’ Voice is more inclusive, transparent and committed in working towards successful outcomes.”

“It has been very encouraging to be involved in the development of the strategy for carers’ services, Somerset’s Commitment to Carers. It feels as though carers’ voices are being listened to and taken seriously. Let us hope that there will be enough financial backing to implement what carers really need. This would be in the interests of preventing more demand on already stretched public services.”

Deborah Penny, Project Officer for Carers’ Voice Somerset, said: “It is really important that carers have an opportunity to make themselves heard and to find solutions together to improve services. Support services for carers in Somerset are currently being reviewed by the County Council and CCG, and the ‘Commitment to Carers’ is playing an important role in shaping what future services will look like. If you are a carer please find out more about Carers’ Voice Somerset at: http://www.carersvoicesomerset.co.uk or contact me, email DPenny@somerset.gov.uk or call 07818 523487.”

Cllr William Wallace, Cabinet Member for Adults Services at Somerset County Council, said: “Carers in Somerset do an amazing job caring for a relative or a friend. They need support and it is really important that we listen to them when we are designing support services. I look forward to working with Carer’s Voice Somerset more in the future.”

Dr Ed Ford, Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group’s Interim Chairman, said: “The continued support and commitment shown by unpaid carers to their loved ones is vital but so is the health and wellbeing of carers themselves. Both health and social care services could not cope without them and we commend their considerable support.

“Carers Voice is making sure carers’ views are heard and this is already influencing the future planning of local health services in Somerset whether delivered in hospital, the community or a patient’s own home.”

For more information on Carers’ Voice Somerset visit: http://www.carersvoicesomerset.co.uk