The Carers’ Centre – a lifeline for carers in Bath and North East Somerset
Established in 1994 as a small locally-funded project, the Carers’ Centre provides advice and assistance to over 4,500 individuals a year who care for a seriously ill or disabled family member in Bath and North East Somerset, of which over 600 are young carers aged 5-18. Through creating a carer-friendly community, the Centre’s work is designed to improve the quality of life of carers, helping them to stay happy, healthy, in control and informed.
When someone cares for a loved one, looking after their own health can take a backseat, and carers say they often feel isolated and invisible, a situation that has been intensified by the Covid pandemic. The Carers’ Centre runs a free programme of respite activities for carers of all ages to take a break, focus on their own health and wellbeing, and connect with others in a similar situation.
With the onset of the pandemic, people were spending more time at home, suddenly deprived of their usual opportunities to socialise. This situation impacted the care community greatly, in particular young carers and young adult carers, with many admitting to feeling anxious and lonely. The charity responded to this by redesigning all of its work to develop a range of remote services – through video conferencing, over the phone and by post – providing valuable breaks, peer support and information sessions to ensure that carers received up-to-date information and resources to enjoy some time off.
In June 2021 the charity sought funding of £5,000 to organise 150 workshops – in person and remotely – to support the health and happiness needs of 900 carers. The activities included creative writing, singing, arts and craft, as well as sessions promoting relaxation through pampering and massage, mindfulness and meditation. Physical wellbeing classes on yoga, gentle exercise and nutrition were also organised, as well as practical sessions on managing finances and cooking.
The funding also enabled the Centre to purchase video, lighting and sound equipment so it could live-stream the workshops and record them for its YouTube channel, for those unable to attend in person. This has expanded the charity’s suite of resources available on its new website to ensure that carers and their families have a wide range of practical advice they can access whenever it suits them.
The Carers’ Centre also sent ‘at-home’ wellbeing activities, such as arts and craft resources, puzzles and colouring books, to those wishing to take a break in their own time.
Carers who participated in the sessions described them as a huge support after two years of limited interaction with their friends and families due to the pandemic. Nine out of ten carers said that, after taking part in the activities, they felt more aware of their own health and wellbeing and more connected to others, while three quarters said that they valued the opportunity to have fun and take a break from their caring responsibilities. The activities also helped participants to strike up new friendships.
“I cannot thank the Carers’ Centre enough. Having the craft group is my lifeline. Looking after two parents with dementia is the most difficult job I have ever had to do. I am lucky enough to be able to go along to the Carers’ Centre and chat with others.”
“I love the breaks and find them so refreshing, they’ve been a real support especially over the last 18 months. Thank you so much!”