Carers Leeds estimates that there are 74,000 unpaid carers in the Leeds area, all helping a friend or family member who has physical or mental health issues, a disability or substance misuse problems. The organisation offers support via their helpline, newsletter, website, and usually through social groups and drop-in sessions.
As we all know, face-to-face support has had to change to cope with the current pandemic. Carers Leeds is now offering telephone support from their workers, with online groups and wellbeing sessions now starting up. Their helpline is still open, still supporting and advising carers, and they’re also accepting referrals.
One referral, received just before the social distancing measures started, was Elise (not her real name). She said she wanted support to connect socially and explained that she struggles with her mental health. Staff from Carers Leeds explained to Elise that they’d have to support her over the phone at the current time. Elise agreed and said she’d like to learn how to communicate using technology. The team used video chats to show her how to use emails, Houseparty and WhatsApp to stay in touch with her friends.
Her next steps are to join an online support group via Facebook and learn how to make her tablet read out words that she doesn’t understand, using accessibility settings. This will enable her to read online mental health advice. She now says she feels connected, despite having to stay at home when she isn’t working. Elise believes learning new technology is a positive distraction from her current mental state and personal situation.
One popular social outing at Carers Leeds is for members to join group meals. Of course, they’re cancelled right now, and this led to the team thinking of a creative way to keep the carers in touch. As a result they created two private Facebook groups, one for Morley and one for Horsforth.
This means the carers are still in touch with their social group, and have a place to post pictures and updates about what they’re all doing at home. They’ve been able to share positive images of themselves baking, doing crafts, writing letters, upcycling, and also pictures of their pets and gardens. This has created a fun environment and a place to still feel connected to the group. Furthermore, carers have been able to message Carers Leeds if they have any support needs, and the team then arranges telephone appointments to help.
Like many other organisations across Leeds, telephone and online communications are proving to be a lifeline for members. It’s fantastic that staff and volunteers across the city are able to offer so much support and social contact in this difficult situation. Well done, Carers Leeds!
Time to Shine Monitoring and Evaluation Assistant