Michael McEwan speaks to Ruth Gallagher (Voluntary Action East Renfrewshire), Lynn Wardle (Thrive) and Colette Walker (carer) about the Care Collective.
The Care Collective is a project in East Renfrewshire to support carers and involve them in discussions and decisions about their support. A number of organisations are working in partnership to make it happen.
MM - Michael McEwan
RG - Ruth Gallagher
LW - Lynn Wardle
CW - Colette Walker
MM Ok, now on Iriss.fm we are going to hear about a new project called the Care Collective and we are joined by Ruth Gallagher, from Voluntary Action and we are joined by a carer and someone who has a disability as well, Colette Walker, and we are joined by Lynn Wardle from Thrive. So, we are going to hear about this exciting project, but I wanted to ask as well, first of all, if Ruth can give us a wee overview of what Voluntary Action is and what they provide?
RG Yeh, no problem. Voluntary Action is what's known as the Third Sector Interface for East Renfrewshire, which really means that what we do is, we offer support to third sector organisations, charities, community groups and individuals who are interested in making things better in East Renfrewshire. So, if you are interested in setting up a group, we will help you to think through what you need to do, where you could get funding, what kind of organisation you want to be. If you want to get involved in volunteering, we will help you find an opportunity, if you need volunteers we will help you think through what that neds to look like, but if you actually just want to get involved in your local community then pop in and have a chat with us and we will help you out.
MM Cool, that's good. So, I will turn to Lynn first, Lynn why is it so important to do this project?
LH I think the most important thing is that in every community people pass each other by from day to day, on the streets, they interact with the local authorities, with the health care people, but they don't often get together with people like them to talk about what do we want? What do we need? And how can we influence our communities to make that happen? We have been talking to lots of people who care for other people, well do you know what? Most of us, at some point in our lives, will care for someone else and that can be great, or it can be really quite hard sometimes. So, if they have got the opportunity to talk to each other about what that's like, what support we might give each other, what support we might get from public services, then I think that's really important. There is new legislation coming in because government has recognised how important it is to appreciate and acknowledge and support carers and we have got an opportunity right now, in East Renfrewshire, to work together and make sure that legislation best supports people here. So, I think now is a really important time for the Care Collective.
MM Ruth, why East Renfrewshire?
RG To be honest, East Renfrewshire, we work here, Voluntary Action is here and Thrive is our partner organisation, but we are actually quite lucky in that we have a fairly forward think health and social care partnership and at this point in time they've, it's the health and social care partnership that has commissioned us to do this work, because they are full committed to looking at getting the legislation and using what the Scottish Government are giving as a told to make sure that people in East Renfrewshire have an opportunity to get involved and shape it. So, in East Renfrewshire we are doing the Care Collective, essentially, because we have been commissioned to, but because this is an opportunity, it's a good place to do it and we have the right environment and they actually have very involved, very engaged and enthusiastic people that live in East Renfrewshire and want to be involved. That includes carers, individual residents, people that are cared for, organisations, everybody in East Renfrewshire is really interested and ready to get involved.
MM Lynn, tell us a bit about your organisation and the background, basically, an overview of your organisation.
LH Sure, so Thrive is my organisation, we have got a small team and we are a social enterprise consultancy. That means that people can ring us up and say, can you come and help us with this", because we do the same kind of work but we do it all over the UK. The work that we do is about helping people from different organisation and different communities to work better together. That sounds really easy and straight forward, but it's not. You get different people from different organisations into the same room, you will find that people can talk about the same thing but it sounds like they are all talking about something totally different. So, our work involves helping people to have the same conversation to share ideas, to be creative about what we can do differently and better, and to make sure that local people get the chance to participate and shape public sector and government and health decisions. So, we kind of work in between different organisations to help them all work better together.
MM Colette, can I turn to you now? What do you think about the Care Collective and the bit of work that Thrive is doing in East Renfrewshire?
CW Well I am really glad it's actually been involved with the new care bill that's coming in because I don't think, just now, that East Renfrewshire council, as such, is fully listening to the actual carers themselves and the difficulties they have every day of their life. Carers, as Ruth said, they will say, "look, I'm struggling with this, what can we do about this, what can we do about that?", but because of budgeting, financial resources, staffing resources, if you don't keep on at them you get put down the list and you get forgotten about. Then time goes by and you are still in that rut, whereas, now if we get, through the Care Collective, an actual, to analyse and get the stats and analyse everything that is actually needed and required and then form a very specific plan of needs within the caring community, then, with the bill that's coming out, and working with parliament, I think we could actually make quite a progressive change to the whole system for the carers, but also the person who is being cared for. So, yeh, I'm so excited about it actually happening in the first place and I am looking forward to seeing results and working alongside Ruth and Lynn.
MM And what do you think about the services now? Do you think they are working or are they failing?
CW It's a bit of a mixture, I think they can work, but again, it's who shouts loudest and if you are in a position where you have become a carer quite quickly, you don't know anybody else who is a carer, you don't know who to turn to, if your situation is that you are isolated from everybody due to the carer role, you don't have the time or energy to actually keep on. Whereas, if you have a community around you that can say, you know, get in contact with them, it makes life a wee bit easier. Again, it all comes down to funding and there is a domino effect because Westminster is cutting the budget all the time, then Holyrood itself has only got limited expense to pass on to each council, each council then is getting a budget cut every year, but again, with East Renfrewshire we've got one of the highest population of disabled population and carers, but our budget is getting reduced. Then there is a domino effect of the resources within the social work department because they are actually losing staff hand over fist, they really are, you know, I think last year there was about a 50% reduction in staff. The turnover is very high because they can't keep up with the demand of their jobs. So, there is a big, huge domino effect to actually cutting budget to the social care department. So, if you don't have that confidence to speak up and ask for help, which a lot of people actually don't, especially carers because they feel then that they are failing themselves as a person and they are failing the person they are caring for. If they don't have that voice to speak up then they are not going to get anything. Then there is a wee bit of resentment then when they hear, if they happen to speak to another carer and they say, oh but I get this and I get that, well how did you get that? They might have known a resource, they might have known who to speak to and they might have been able to speak up a wee bit louder and a wee bit more assertive than that other person, which shouldn't be the case, it should be equal for everybody.
MM So, I've been involved in a lot of these pop up events with the Care Collective and Ruth's been involved in many more than me, so tell us what has the feedback been like from the workshops?
RG I think, overall, the engagement work that we have done, going out and talking to people on the street, carers, going where carers are already meeting and where their service is happening, most of what we are getting echoes what Colette was saying about, you know, there is a mixed bag of services that are provided and the biggest thing is not knowing what you are entitled to, not knowing how to access it and not really realising, until you are in a point of crisis, that actually you are a carer. So, there is a lot about communication, awareness raising, knowledge and information sharing and supporting each other, actually, is what's coming out quite a lot. It's about, once you have been through the system you know what's out there, you have accessed it, passing that knowledge on to someone else who is in the same position as you is half the battle, knowing how to get help and where to get it and what you are entitled to. One of the biggest things is about actually identifying yourself, first and foremost, as a carer. It's not the same for everybody. When that happened, when you suddenly woke up one morning and thought, that's me, I'm a carer now, or whether or not it's because you've had a child and your child has received a diagnosis, or your partner or your parent, whatever the position you are in, when you suddenly have the realisation that you are a carer, you are not prepared for that. It's not something that is taught at school it's not something that you pick up a leaflet and immediately it's there in your face, you know what carers are. So, access to information is really the key and knowing how to raise your particular situation, your particular issue and who is the best person to go to with that, because it's not always the social work department that's the person you need to speak to, or the carer centre, or CAB, or the job centre, you know, it's about understanding who is the best person to go to with my particular struggle and at what point in time should I do that?
MM So, Lynn, what events have you got coming up after August?
LH Well, we don't have a fixed programme of events because ultimately what we want is people to tell us what would be useful for them. So, we have just finished a couple of workshops this week, one with people who are providing services in and around East Renfrewshire, some specifically for carers, but others not, and also with some parents who have got particular caring responsibilities for their children with additional needs. We have been asking these groups to tell us what would be good for you? What do we need to do next? So, what we will be doing over the next couple of months is reconvening groups, getting more people involved at the times and places that work for them, to start thinking where are the main themes? Where do we really want to focus our efforts as a community of people, whether that's service providers or carers or others, where do we want to focus our efforts? Where do we think the best opportunities are? So, over the next few months we will be looking at those, we will also be looking at the legislation because the legislation has got some responsibilities in there around assessments, respite care, young carer statements and so on, and we want to make sure that we can influence that legislation so that it really meets what people are telling us they want and need right now. So, our work over the next few months will be focused on making sure that legislation fits with what people want and giving people opportunities to talk with one another and meet with one another and share ideas of what could work best in the future. All of our events are on our Facebook pages and websites, so if people want to get involved then make sure you keep checking those places regularly.
MM Colette, why is this bit of work so important to East Renfrewshire, but why is it important to recognise it as well?
CW Well as I said, East Renfrewshire itself has got the highest population of disabled, especially additional needs children, and obviously then the carers themselves. Isobel Mair's school, for example, which caters for additional needs, but again everybody then starts to move into East Renfrewshire because it is a well-known school. People know about Isobel Mair, people recommend Isobel Mair, so more people move into East Renfrewshire council and it's already just opened up 7 years ago and it's now over its capacity. So, again, it's a domino effect that then we need to realise that the amount of people that need the care and support is increasing year in and year out, but also not now just for younger disabled people, it's those that are now leaving Isobel Mair and going on to adult service, which again is a huge big issue with transition and support that is out there as well, because things are changing, budget changes, you know, even self-directive payments, we used to have a self-directive payment department and now it's the social work department that dealing with that. Things keep changing all the time, so it's very hard for a carer, who is quite isolated in their role of a carer, to actually know where to go and that's why, when we are talking to the carers collective, you know, I'm putting the point across, you know, like having some type of directory that can be updated through an app or website or something, that gives you general information from different stages of diagnosis right through to adulthood, for East Renfrewshire council, different phone numbers and websites, everything is there because they do change all the time. You might look up a website and it hasn't been updated and it tells you to phone the self-directive department, it doesn't exist anymore, you know, because everything keeps getting shuffled about all the time so it's very hard to keep up, so it would actually be really good if the Care Collective would work together, as we are now doing, and just get all the data put in one area and at least then it would be less stressful and a wee bit more informative and it would give the carer that wee bit more control of doing something for themselves as well as getting support that they need. Yeh, it's a big project but, you know, it's really badly needed.
MM So, Lynn kind of answered this questioned but, Ruth, how can people get involved if people are in East Renfrewshire and they stay in this area and want to get involved, what's the proper channels to do that?
RG To get involved with the Care Collective, there are a number of routes in. So, we have a Facebook page, we have a website and twitter feed as well. Essentially, if you are in and around Barrhead you can walk in to the Voluntary Actions building and have a chat with one of the staff here, you can call us on the Voluntary Action number, which is 0141 876 9555. You will see us out and about, we will be wearing bright t-shirts, pink, blue and purple, with a C on it and our hashtag at the bottom is WeCareEastRen.
MM Ok thanks, and I wish you all the best for the work that you are doing.