Blueprint For Personalised Care & Support

Natural Breaks - social inclusion carers grant

Social Inclusion

In 1999 the Department of Health introduced the Carer's Grant and issued guidance to the Local Authorities on how their Carer's Grant allocations should be used. This encouraged councils to implement a range of activities that essentially enabled 'carers to take a break from caring by stimulating greater diversity and flexibility of provision.

Department of Health encouraged Local Authorities to engage with the voluntary sector. In 2002, Liverpool City Council asked local voluntary organisations to submit bids to provide a service that would benefit the carers of adults with learning disabilities which would be funded through Liverpool City Council's allocation of the Carer's Grant.

As soon as Natural Breaks became aware of the chance to bid for funding, work commenced on producing a creative set of ideas that would become part of a new, useful service to carers - many of the people currently supported by our organisation had extensive packages of support, but we were made aware of a minority group of carers (mainly elderly, often lone parents) whose children only received day-centre provision. During weekends and evenings these carers often had sole care responsibilities and their children and their tended not to have many non-family relationships or access to social & leisure opportunities other than some organised (one-service-to fit-all) group activities.

Our main source of information was our Chair Director - ex Senior, Social Services Manager, parent of 2 severely disabled adult children and carers-champion, Joe Steen. The parents and carers were immediately consulted with in small groups, via Joe's networks. The feedback we received highlighted the needs of people who ideally suited those for whom the funding was intended to reach.

The main outcomes:

  • Carers involved gained from receiving quality, short-breaks at times outside of Monday to Friday day-centre hours, including evenings and weekends. It was intended that this service would be particularly valued as it gave parents the chance to do things for themselves at times when others, without caring responsibilities, did - with the knowledge that sons and daughters were out taking part in enjoyable activities of their choice.
  • Another major aim was to give parents the chance to see that their sons or daughters could regularly and safely take part in every day events, make friends, make choices and enjoy themselves outside of formally arrange conditions. It was also a chance for them to see that other networks of support could safeguard and enable the people they cared for to do the same things that the majority was able to do. Parents and carers also fed-back the fact that as they were getting older they were feeling the strain of caring and that the realization of the role becoming more difficult to cope with was also prompting concern about who would care for very dependent adult children, when they were no longer able or no longer around for the people who needed them..
  • People could now choose their activities. As people had not been assessed as being in need of additional support outside of day-centre provision transition. This had implications around how cared-for individuals had been allowed to become included in regular activities in which they had genuine choice to take part. Without trying what was 'out there' any choice made was not so well-informed and remained limited in range.
  • Workers - This service was a chance to give staff members the opportunity to work on a fresh, new project with some added responsibility, but without the level of physical and emotional challenge they regularly faced as part of their usual support work. It would be social and leisure activity based, with the need for a creative and empowering approach with people who were to be encouraged to try new experiences and be able to make more informed choices. The realisation of personal potential and the achievement of very positive outcomes was a desired outcome for our workers.

Measuring the outcomes achieved

The degree of initial take-up and the continued use of the service was to be taken as a good indicator of general usefulness to parents. We knew it would take time to gain the trust of a group presenting as particularly protective having mainly experienced day provision provided within safe, building-based, boundaries. The collection of weekly feedback questionnaires from workers and a planned series of regular carer meetings would be used to gather data to evaluate the service outcome and service achievements.

One manager project-managed the development of the service and other workers were prepared to take part in its delivery. Our assessment was to be crucial to ensure that eligible carers would receive the provision. Once it was worked out and the model and level of service was agreed, families met at an open day and agreements to do home visits to initiate the service were arranged.

Purchasers saw the service as both economic to run and as offering useful and flexible support to a particularly excluded and isolated group of carers.

As a result:

  • Improved and better timed short-breaks for carers.
  • Improved social networks for carers from regular group meetings and more chance to access opportunities.
  • A chance for carers to see that external support outside of formalized, building based services can work - giving them hope for when they were unable to provide care themselves.

The service was developed and was up and running within 2 months of the funding agreement. This was possible as the project used many parts of an existing infrastructure. 30 families received a service totaling 43 carers- the majority were older people and more than 66 percent were lone carers. The outcomes for people supported were very positive - staff showed good signs of personal development and the service was evaluated as being good value for money. The organisation showed that it could tailor creative services to meet the needs of excluded people.

This service was quickly set up and has run consistently since 2002 with 100 per cent take up at all times and with a waiting list of people wishing to fill places as they arise - evidence that this is a valuable service to both Carers and the individuals receiving support. People being supported enjoy the company of a small group in which their individual preferences can be catered for, rather than in the larger groups that people are used to. It is value for money for Commissioners in that 3 people, and 3 families, are receiving quality support from the one rate.