Walsall Carers Hub recently organized a remarkable Carers Week event, the Mini Carers Festival, to raise awareness among local Walsall carers about the various support services available to them and their loved ones in the area. The festival aimed not only to provide valuable information but also to celebrate and acknowledge the incredible dedication and support that carers provide on a daily basis. Attendees were treated to an array of free activities and refreshments, ensuring a day of relaxation, rejuvenation, and entertainment.
The festival kicked off with a group meditation session, offering carers a chance to find inner peace and tranquility amidst their busy lives. It provided a valuable opportunity for carers to recharge their energy and promote their overall well-being. Following the meditation, participants were invited to join a refreshing wellbeing walk, allowing them to connect with nature and engage in light physical activity in the lovely setting of the Walsall Arboretum.
One of the highlights of the event was the availability of free massages. Carers were pampered and given the chance to unwind while skilled therapists worked their magic, easing tension and providing much-needed relief. The massages were tailored to address the specific needs and concerns of carers, recognizing the physical and emotional toll their role can take. Big thank you to Heather Morris from Breeze Holistics, Sunny and Daniel from The Massage Company , Deborah Westley from Rejuvenate Skin & Body Clinic.
To ensure everyone stayed refreshed and hydrated, free refreshments were provided at the Visitor centre. Carers had access to a selection of hot and cold drinks, allowing them to recharge and mingle with fellow attendees. This also provided a space for carers to share experiences, connect with others who face similar challenges, and build supportive networks.
To promote balance and harmony, Amrit Singh led a group Tai Chi session was offered, providing carers with an introduction to this ancient martial art form. Tai Chi is renowned for its numerous health benefits, including improved flexibility, stress reduction, and enhanced mental clarity. Participants were able to learn and practice the graceful movements in a supportive and inclusive environment of the Arboretum.
During the Mini Carers Festival, the afternoon came alive with amazing live music from Kiel Wilkinson. Carers had the chance to enjoy the enchanting melodies, boosting their mood and fostering a strong sense of togetherness.
To wrap up the day at the Mini Carers Festival, as Kiel’s melodies continued to resonate through the park, Kirsty from Hummingbird yoga offered a peaceful session for the carers. Kirsty guided the attendees through gentle yoga movements, helping them find inner calm and rejuvenation. It was a serene conclusion that added to the festival’s enchanting atmosphere, leaving the carers feeling refreshed and centered.
The Mini Carers Festival organized by Walsall Carers Hub proved to be an incredible success. It not only informed carers about the support available to them in the local area but also celebrated their selfless contributions. By offering a range of activities, from meditation and massages to Tai Chi and live music, the festival demonstrated a genuine commitment to the well-being and appreciation of carers. It was a day of relaxation, rejuvenation, and recognition—a heartfelt thank you to the unsung heroes of our community.
We extend our heartfelt thanks and appreciation to Jenny Wells and Karvin Jhali from the NHS Mental Health Community Team, Paul and Emily from the NHS Self Care Management Team, Beverly Akimbowale from Adult Social Care, Jennifer Steane from the Walk in the Park Walsall Healthy Spaces Team, Midland Mencap, The Walsall Disability Hub, and Forward Carers. We are immensely grateful for their invaluable contributions to the Walsall Carers Hub Mini Carers Festival, which made it a truly remarkable event. We would also like to express our sincere gratitude to Morrisons Walsall for their generous cake donation and to Arboretum Café for their outstanding service and drinks, ensuring the well-being and enjoyment of all carers. Your support, dedication, and kindness created a memorable and successful festival, leaving carers feeling appreciated and cared for.
Midland Mencap is one of the region’s leading learning disability charities with a strong, respected, and established reputation for excellence and innovation. Employees span across the West Midlands, with a vast variety of roles and daily routines. No two days are the same and neither are the positions we offer here.
The vision of our Job Insights monthly blog is to give employees and roles a chance to educate, explore and celebrate all the hard work we know they do. It aims to allow roles that, if you didn’t know were there, wouldn’t necessarily be known about. We hope you’ll come away with a better understanding of who exactly makes up the amazing Midland Mencap team.
This Christmas, we interviewed Sarah Lynch who one of our amazing Family Project Workers. We chatted about family, managing work-life balance and being a family-carer herself. Sarah has three boys and one girl, two of which have learning disabilities, so she understands the struggles and the joys of life, all too well. Throughout the interview, Sarah’s zest for life, passion for Birmingham and families who are parent-carers themselves, significantly shined through.
Sarah began by explaining what a Family Project Worker does, stating that their team is there to support, encourage and guide carers. The team is split across the five areas of Birmingham – North, South, East, West and Central. Sarah is responsible for the South. Sessions are split between either one-on-one and individual focus or group work.
One on one support can include their initial assessment; identifying what might be missing, seeing where they need additional support, making an action plan and then ensuring it is put into place for them. Support can include respite care, additional funding, helping them find the correct school placements and encouraging them to partake in meaningful things to do as a family, that are inclusive.
Group work is more social, in that Midland Mencap offers coffee mornings, Musical Meet Ups, small group sessions and parent-carer training. Sarah runs ‘drop-ins, so if they can’t commit to weekly support groups or coffee mornings, they can just pop and see me, ask for general advice.’ She explained that whilst some issues may be able to be resolved there and then, some are then be referred through the wider Family Carers team as it’ll require further support.
Sarah, being a parent-carer as well, knows the realities of what carers go through. Her passion lies within supporting them at whatever point in the process they are at – whether newly diagnosed, needing resources or simply going through the motions of every day life. Reflecting on her own experiences, Sarah explained, “I wish I had somebody in my corner with me. Just to sit in meetings, if I didn’t understand something, or I was so emotional I couldn’t take it all in; somebody in a professional role sat next to me, taking it all in for me and can that on-going support afterwards”. Her experience and wisdom of being a parent-carer herself has allowed her empathy to shine through significantly, because she understands entirely the difficulties new, and seasoned, carers may often face.
The way Sarah ran through memories of her children growing up – appointments, assessments, learning to adapt daily life to a new narrative – was really striking in that her compassion for others and her patience for their situations was unending. From having to change simple words and phrases, to recognising how to communicate with her youngest especially, as he was non-verbal for the first four years of his life (he is now 6 years old); “playing catch up” to get him to a higher level of development was a learning-curve they had to quickly learn. Whereas her older son, who was diagnosed as a teenager, needed structure and routine. Their situation resulted in him moving schools, where he thrived under the new circumstances. Being able to support her children, experiencing the different elements that come with being a parent-carer, Sarah explained that she feels well-equipped to support others, too.
But was working in the Third/Charity sector always the goal? When Sarah left school at 16, with GCSEs but no A Levels to her name, she enrolled in a Hairdressing course at college. However, she found that once she begun to have children at aged 18, her career focus began to evolve. Originally working in the private sector, Sarah realised that there were many more people out there who didn’t have the money to such high-quality care, support and guidance, and so, found herself entering the charity sector. She “absolutely loved” the face-to-face opportunities to support citizens with mental health whilst working for a charity in Sandwell, “reaching individuals in their homes and offering that level of support”.
Ultimately, that passion for others led Sarah to Midland Mencap; “it just feels right to me that care and support is accessible to everybody”. Front line work is where she feels she’ll stay (and we’ll be exceptionally glad to have her continue to stay!). We asked Sarah if her 14-year-old self would have thought she’d be in this line of work in her now-thirties; she replied, “Yeah! I think so. I always knew I wanted to be a Mum, wanted to give and care for people. It’s just within me.” With having two children that have Learning Disabilities, it has given Sarah the opportunity to broaden that skill set and expertise of caring on not just a professional level, but a personal one, too.
Our Family Carers teams work with such a range of people, from a variety of backgrounds and circumstances, which results in every day looking a little different to the next. Sarah explained that every family that are involved in the work we do has a different story; “every family is equally important, regardless of their diagnosis or going through a diagnosis, the fact they are caring for their mum and they have dementia, or the fact they have MS – they are all carers, so we go in with eyes wide open to whatever their needs may be.” This can be touching base with carers, especially if they need additional support due to child protection plans in place or be in an emotionally vulnerable situation. As a result of how much time and energy Carers invest into their roles and lives of those they care for, it can become their identity, which is why Sarah always begins every session with a new carer getting to know who they are. She explained that so often they can get so wrapped up in appointments, assessments, new information constantly and they forget that they have an individual identity, too; “I find that’s a really important question for me – ‘can you tell me who you are? Not the carer, not the Mum; who are you?’”. It begins to humanise their experiences again, giving them ownership of their identity.
Christmas can be a difficult time for carers for many reasons. Children, for example, are not in school. This can become an issue for those carers that may be quite isolated, with no family or friends around to support. In addition, the festive period can bring a lot of change – something which can be challenging for those with Learning Disabilities. Something as simple as going to the supermarket to do the weekly shop can become a huge mountain due to things like the music in the background being different, Christmas items being on the shelves, shops are much busier.
That being said, Sarah pointed out, there have been significant improvements in the last few years for accessibility and accommodating alternatives. For instance, whilst visiting Santa’s Grotto is an activity many families partake in during the Christmas period, it can be quite a demanding experience for those with Learning Disabilities. That being said, there are some garden centres across the West Midlands that, during pre-booking, will offer a space for accessibility suggestions or comments, to support your visit. Visual aids can also be a beneficial tool for parent-carers, such as presenting a structure or order of their day, allowing them the time to process any change that might occur. Or, preparing the child(ren) by showing them pictures of Santa, what a Grotto might look like, what sounds might be around and explaining what the experience will entail. Such tools won’t erase their potentially difficulties, but it might offer a softer approach that could lead to a smoother day for them and the family.
Sarah explained that many parents – both those who care for others and even those that don’t – feel high amounts of pressure of the Christmas period. From present giving, to cooking the perfect dinner, to ensuring everyone is happy throughout the day. But regardless of if whether things go to ‘plan’ or not – they may not want to open their presents, or they want to eat something different – it’s important not to worry about it. If, for example, you are due to see family at a certain time, but you know that it simply won’t happen, Sarah recommends you communicate with your family. “I’m pretty sure family will understand. Communication with family and friends, not just with your cared for, will go a long way.”
Ultimately, being a parent-carer and being part of the Family Carers team is hard but rewarding work. It is possible to branch into this line of work without qualifications – Sarah explained that whilst she has built up an impressive portfolio of training over the years, she left school with only GCSEs at age 16. “I just think these types of roles, it’s not about what’s on paper; it’s about what’s in your heart and what you want to achieve, wanting to give.” It’s an emotionally demanding role, and it certainly isn’t for everyone; but within the wider Midland Mencap team, it’s one part of the cog that ensures our organisation runs smoothly and that we can reach out, support, and engage with the most vulnerable within the West Midlands. Midland Mencap offer support in a holistic way.
“Sometimes the only thing to say to carers is that it is hard, to give that validation, that ‘what you are going, Mum, is hard and you should be so proud that you are getting up everyday and still doing it’”.
The Family Carers Team is very excited to enter 2021 with 3 new Family Project Workers, Sarah Lynch, Martin Hawthorne and Rebecca Bankole. Each bring years of knowledge regarding support for carers, emotional wellbeing and safeguarding.
The Families team continue to deliver Wellbeing Workshops every Monday via Zoom for Family Carers to learn coping strategies to use on a day to day basis and improve overall wellbeing. The sessions include: Sleep Well and Relaxation, Mindfulness, Building Emotional Resilience, Mental Health Awareness, Mental Health Awareness in Children and Young People, Building Confidence and Self-Esteem and Healthy Relationships for Parent Carers. From January until March, we have also secured First Aid Training and Moving and Assisting Training for Family Carers too. This is also delivered via Zoom with certificate of attendance given after course completion.
The Carer’s Coffee Morning ‘s on a Thursday continue to run every fortnight, this is a chance for Carers to virtually meet one another and provide peer to peer support. It also gives carers the chance to meet the team and gain knowledge of what support can be provided for them and their family. So grab a coffee and join us in the comfort of your own home!
Last year the Family Carers Team also joined with the Mac to launch the ‘Hidden Voices’ project. This is a very exciting project for female carers to join together and improve their wellbeing through music. No music experience is needed, just an open mind to having fun and meeting new people. They have been running successfully so far, so if you would like to join a new group for 2021 and music is something you enjoy; join one of our Hidden Voices groups.
The team also continue their 1:1 work with carers who may need support in specific areas of their caring roles. The team can complete Wellbeing Assessments or Statutory Carers Assessments to identify any unmet needs and support you to ensure they are met in a timely manner. You can also apply for a Max Card through the Carers Team and be supported when applying for a Carers Card.
The Family Carers Team also provide a service for GOLDD Carers, this is for someone who cares for an individual with a Learning Disability and Dementia. Through the GOLDD project you can receive weekly support 1:1 via telephone, receive Wellbeing and Carers Assessments to identify and meet unmet needs, join weekly Zoom’s for peer to peer support and get information and advice. The GOLDD project also has it’s own Hidden Voices group, which is currently delivered via Zoom, to improve wellbeing through song writing and music making. To learn more about the GOLDD project, email: email@example.com
For more information regarding any of the services on the Families Team email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Listen to yesterday’s Sunny and Shay’s BBC WM show where Dave Rogers (Midland Mencap CEO), Paul Jones (Operations Manager for Family Carers Information Service) and Chris Proctor (Town Hall Symphony Hall) talk about the real impact Sunday’s event has for family Carers in Birmingham.
[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text] [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Book your tickets for Sunday’s Families together at Christmas Concert here or call 0121 442 2944 for further details[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Midland Mencap’s Family Carers Information Service & Carers Emergency Response Team are pleased to be developing a partnership with the new Rare Disease Centre at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
Last thursday we handed over a collection of baby clothes and baby quilts for the Neo-natal Surgical Ward and Rare Disease Centre. These Baby clothes were kindly donated by Boots Mini Club (Birmingham St Andrews Store)and quilts donated by Project Linus UK.
These were handed over by Georgina Gabriel of Midland Mencap’s Family Carers Information Service to Sister Janet Greenley Turberville of Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Rare Disease Centre.
The new centre is a first in Europe and staff from both teams have been working closely with the team at BCH to develop a connection to support families with information, advice and guidance on a range of issues, provide access to short break opportunities and emergency back-up support is amongst the support on offer.
Everyone is exited to develop this partnership throughout 2017 and beyond.
Mary Hunt uses our Sitting Service. Mary is unable to go out alone, as her anxiety causes her to suffer from panic attacks. When Mary steps outside her door, she likes to be greeted with a friendly face. Mary holds onto the support workers arm for reassurance, when they arrive, but gradually walks around alone, with the support of her walking stick.
Mary is gaining confidence with every visit and is building her confidence to access the community. Mary has been supported to Birmingham Registry Office to obtain a copy of her Birth Certificate, which she lost many years ago. She was supported to complete the relevant forms and is really pleased that she now has her birth certificate to use as ID.
We have also supported Mary to attend her appointments at the Q.E. Hospital. Mary had previously tried to go alone and when she arrived at the hospital she could not face going into the hospital alone, turned around and got straight back into the same taxi. With our support Mary has successfully attended her appointment thus improving her health and well-being.
We halve also supported Mary to travel to Kings Heath to open a bank account so that she can pay her bills easier.
With our support to promote and encourage her confidence and independence Mary know likes to have a chat and a coffee in a café. She also likes to sit in the park and have her lunch and loves to go out looking around the charity shops.
Mary likes using our service, she feels “ It’s good to have someone with me for support and reassurance”, her confidence has increased and she feels more able to access the community on her own.
Birmingham City Council would like to encourage parents and carers to complete this questionnaire for your children. Your views and feedback are essential to finding new ways to shape and plan future Short Breaks services. The closing date to complete this questionnaire is Thursday 13th April 2017, please find the questionnaire below and have your say!
RETURNING THE QUESTIONNAIRE:
PLEASE COMPLETE AND RETURN TO YOUR DISTRIBUTOR / PROVIDER.
RETURN YOUR COMPLETED QUESTIONNAIRE TO THE FOLLOWING EMAIL ADDRESS: