A combination of chaos on the railways and a friend standing me up for tea left me all alone on Kings Cross Station until 8pm after the State of Caring Conference – hence the empty chair next to me! This gave me a chance to mull over the day’s events and to take stock of all things carers, particularly Middlesbrough Carers.
I have attended this annual conference twice before making this my third and all have been different. This year the Middlesbrough Carers Strategic Partnership (MSCP) with great wisdom supported six members (besides myself) to attend this conference with an overnight stay in London to boot.
This decision was taken to ensure that the Partnership understood current national issues, provide these members with the opportunity to discuss and learn during the conference and take this back to the Partnership and their organisations, alow different members of different organisations to network primarily locally (i.e., with each other), but also with organisations from different parts of the country and to provide members of the Partnership with a learning opportunity which will help themselves, their organisations and the Partnership.
Unlike previous years I have got the overriding impression that the effects of austerity and cuts in statutory funding support are now showing even in the more ‘prosperous’ areas of the UK. In Middlesbrough, with support and services provided by members of the MSCP, carers do have a wide range of targeted support available to them.
The conference concentrated on the NHS Plan and how it affected carers, but other key points on reflection from the Middlesbrough ‘Contingent’ were:
- Supporting working carers
- Young carers
- Carers health & wellbeing – invest in keeping carers fit & well
- Use of technology – interactive tools to support carers
- The long-awaited Adult Social Care green paper
Working Carers a local priority
Working carers is a priority for the MSCP and this has been solidified from work undertaken by Middlesbrough Council (who have introduced an excellent policy to cover workers who are carers) and Carers Together who have been working with some local employers (including Barclays Bank) to advise them on supporting working carers with training and advice. The MSCP has also recently sponsored a local Community Champions Business Award (organised by the Evening Gazette) where the Partnership wants to highlight companies showing how supporting the carers in their workforce makes business sense. Supporting carers to stay in work is a win-win solution: employers retain an experienced worker and save on recruitment and training costs; staff retain the income they are likely heavily reliant on and can continue to develop professionally.
MSCP has also recently awarded grant funding to The Junction Foundation to enhance work in Middlesbrough’s schools. This will fund work to improve identification, awareness and understanding of the needs of young carers in schools and how school staff can support them; improve referrals to the young carers service; enable effective liaison and referral of young carers and their families to additional specialist support; develop a ‘Youth Champion’ in Middlesbrough schools; and influence broader system changes.
Other services have been co-ordinated by the MSCP to support carers in hospitals and those who support people with a mental health problem, welfare rights advice and developing a branding (We Care You Care) for leaflets and banners.
I finally concluded that I was much more relaxed on my way home this year than the two previous years. That does not mean I was complacent nor smug about the support for carers in Middlesbrough, but I was quietly proud of what has been done over the past few years. This is an example of what can be done for the people of Middlesbrough and long may it last.
In February 2007 Craig joined the Planning & Partnership team with a focus on Health & Social Care. He left MVDA in 2010 and re-joined us in August 2014 as Strategic Development Officer. He is currently acting as the partnership manager for both the Middlesbrough Carers Partnership and Middlesbrough Mental Health Partnership as well as leading MVDA’s work around VCS intelligence and supporting the Health and Wellbeing VCS Forum.