Tony Collins-Moore, carers academy manager at Carers Centre Tower Hamlets, shares his experience of working with carers at a carers centre. Highlighting the support that may be on our doorstep and how we can get involved.
I didn’t really know much about unpaid carers until ten years ago, even though I have worked in social care for 30 years. A friend and registered carer suggested I come volunteer at the Carers Centre Tower Hamlets, as I had just been made redundant and had nothing better to do – I do not mean this glibly.
I did two volunteering sessions, applied for a job and now I have been working at the centre for ten years. It is the first role where I have been able to combine my career experience of working in mental health, learning and physical disability, housing, counselling, safeguarding, and training and development.
“Supporting carers in Tower Hamlets has been and continues to be my career high.”
Working with carers means you never know what might come up in a telephone call or an informal chat.
“I work with an amazing team who also have a broad range of skills and experience and this enables us to provide wide ranging services to carers.”
This is common in carers centres across the UK.
How do you register with a carers’ centre?
This is usually done through a simple referral, and can include ‘self-referral’. Other referrals could include from our GP or social worker. Most carers' centres will have a simple form on their website, or we can grab a paper copy when we visit.
We can use this nifty tool to find our own local carers’ centre.
How carers’ centres can help you
Among other things, Carer’s centres can help with:
Welfare benefit support
Carers needs assessment
Referrals and signposting to other appropriate organisations
Power of attorney
Health and wellbeing support and activities
Peer support groups
Measured and appropriate emotional support
1. Crisis Support - Providing shelter in the storm
Carers often find their centre when they are in crisis. This is a crucial time for carers as they require experienced professional and peer provision, prompt responses and sensitive support and care.
The aim of the centre is to provide a holistic, person-centred approach. We encourage self-referral and referrals from statutory services as well as other voluntary organisations. We sometimes welcome carers who have been signposted to us from local councillors.
2. Independent advocacy - Acting as a voice for carers
Dedicated carers centres also have another important role to play, which is listening to carers and championing key causes.
The Carers Centre Tower Hamlets promotes better understanding of carers needs with local and external organisations, brokers better partnership working and embeds willing carers and their expertise into the delivery of services by our partners.
Partner agencies including the local authority, often consult the carers via the centre about service changes, and the impact on local people. The carers centre hosts these consultations, making sure that the carers are supported, listened to and that any changes have a minimum negative impact on an already overworked carer.
3. Welfare benefits support
Carers’ centres will be able to support us to identify any benefits we may be entitled to, to support usin our caring role. This can include things like Carers Allowance, Personal Independence Payment, Carers Credit, Blue Badge and more.
4. Carers Needs’ Assessment
At Tower Hamlets Carers’ Centre, our first step when a carer joins us, is to undertake a Carers Needs Assessment with them.
While many carers’ centres offer this service, there are some that don’t. In which case it’s worth knowing that we can also access a mini carers’ assessment on the Mobilise website.
The purpose and aim of an assessment is to look at the sustainability of the caring role, including the practical and emotional support provided. The assessment will consider their future needs for support as well as their ability and willingness to provide care now and in the future.
Once that is completed the carer is able to access all the other services on offer at the centre, and will continue to be supported by the carers’ centre, through their caring life.
5. Referrals and signposting to other appropriate organisations
Carers centres are a great source of signposting for further support. This might be sharing information on support groups for a carers’ specific situation, or how to contact their Local Authority for housing adaptations. They really are a great source of knowledge.
6. Power of attorney
There are some key pieces of legal paperwork that are really important for carers. Many carers centres can offer support in putting these in place. For example, at Carers’ Centre Tower Hamlets we offer support for putting Power of Attorney paperwork in place. Read our Carers' Guide to Lasting Power of Attorney as a start.
7. Health and wellbeing support and activities
Most carers’ centres run wellbeing programmes. It’s a great opportunity to try something new and to put ourselves first. Carer burnout is a real thing, and accessing these wellbeing activities can be really valuable.
8. Peer support groups
On top of the more formal channels of support and communication, a carers centre is also a place to make friends, share experiences and get support from our fellow carers. Why not join our Facebook community group to connect with other unpaid carers.
9. Creative groups
As part of peer support, most carers’ centres offer creative sessions. They’re a fantastic way to both relax and connect with others. The informal atmosphere and distraction of the creative project are a great opportunity to both unwind, connect and recharge.
10. Measured and appropriate emotional support
Sometimes carers need very specific emotional support. Carers’ centre will have qualified staff who can support us in the way that we need.
What does the carers’ centre mean to me?
Supporting carers in Tower Hamlets has been and continues to be my career high.
As I mentioned earlier, I started out as a volunteer before starting my role as mental health carer support worker. I am now a manager heading up education, training, peer support and volunteer management.
I strongly believe that carers are the backbone of any community. Within Tower Hamlets, I continuously encourage carers to be involved in the development of activities, co-producing content, and enabling me to support carers with workshops that enhance their caring role, promote peer support, and improve mental and physical wellbeing.
How else are carers’ centres championing carers?
1. Identifying unpaid carers
Currently Carers Centre Tower Hamlets supports 3,500 registered carers – but there are many more carers out there that do not identify as such.
We have an ongoing outreach programme to help raise awareness to organisations and people about who and what a carer is, and this can encourage people to realise the impact of their caring role, register with us, and seek the support they need.
If you’re reading this, I’m guessing you know you’re a carer. So my two questions for you are:
Have you registered with your local carers’ centre? You can find yours here.
Do you know someone who perhaps hasn’t realised they are a carer yet? Maybe you could send them this blog.
2. Supporting the second NHS
The most important aspect of the work a carers centre can do, is support carers who, as it has been described, are the second NHS. Carers really do contribute nationally and locally to the better running of communities.
Aside from the fact that they save society huge amounts of money, they also enable better community cohesion and diversity. In our carers centre people from all walks of life mingle together, sharing their common experiences.
About the author
Tony Collins-Moore is manager for education, training, peer support and volunteer management at Carers Centre Tower Hamlets.