Connected Carers is funded by grants from Canterbury City Council and Kent Community Foundation. It is about improving the wellbeing of older people. It will primarily support those who struggle with chronic anxiety, loneliness (often with ill health and depression) in fulfilling their day-to-day caring roles. ‘Getting by’ is getting tougher, particularly for those who care for a loved-one at home, who live with dementia and/or other physical conditions (or who support another in sheltered residential/care home settings). This project is not just about preventing and aiding carers’ recovery from crisis, it is about providing personalised support with tailored opportunities; time for carers to re-claim back a sense of themselves, who they are, and ‘without guilt’:
- To help establish trusted, small friendship networks (often where none exist) with them with people ‘who understand’(trained volunteers/other carers);
- To feel confident, reassured and connected to people who can empathise with their struggles and issues, without fear of embarrassment or ‘burdening’;
- To engage them in light-hearted, cheering, conversations with the additional, positive focus/distraction of taking part in relaxing, fun creative activities, at times that suit them(perhaps including evenings/weekends).
- To engage in sessions for them as carers, alone and also in groups, but also in sessions where they engage together with their cared-for ‘doing something nice’.
- To support them by via telephone/post/doorstep/ socially distanced visits.
- To help those who can already, or wish to learn online connectivity, to engage in facilitated online (Zoom/WhatsApp) sessions (one-to-one/and small support groups).
Initial proposals were predicated on online delivery methods, with telephone and doorstep support for those carers who do not wish to participate in online activities. The exact nature of online and alternative delivery methods being established through an in depth questionnaire and interviews with carers registered with Age UK, Canterbury. In spite of national research indicating the importance of online capability, our research identified very little support for online activity, with a strong preference for face to face group engagement, ideally arranged on a drop in basis. The report can be found at
Online activities have therefore been replaced with face to face group activities. This meets one of the identified needs, but not that for drop in activity – to be met by a separate project establishing drop in coffee mornings in 3 locations.
Four sets of 12 creative sessions were planned to cater for carers with different needs. They were
- 2 sets for individual carers
- 1 set for carers and their cared for
- 1 set for past carers
Each set was to cover a range of craft based activities, and were to be run from September through to March. Participants would be Age UK supported carers and with many having participated in the research activity.
In spite of the stated preference for face to face group activity, the reality was that many carers were concerned about risk. Between the research and implementation, new variants had emerged and infection rates had increased resulting in a reluctance for many carers to engage in group activity. As a consequence there was demand for only two sets of activities. One catering for current and past carers, the other for carers and their cared for. These sessions are running very successfully and have been increased from 12 to at least 15 sessions. In addition more intensive and personalised support is being offered to a further 8 carers,