Solent Carers Staff Network - You are not alone in your caring journey
At Solent, supporting the wellbeing of our colleagues and enabling engagement through our staff networks is extremely important to us. We currently have six active staff networks within the Trust; MultiFaith, DisAbility, Black and Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME), Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT+), Carers and 50+.
One of the newest networks, the Carers Staff Network, serves as a source of information, a means to improve wellbeing, and an opportunity for peer-group support for carers at different stages of their caring journey. It also builds a sense of community and allows people to connect with allies.
Andrew Kershaw, a Data Quality Support Analyst for Children Services at Solent, is the newly appointed chair of this network. At first, Andrew didn’t think he classified as a carer, but after attending a carers meeting last year, his thinking changed. “One of the reasons I volunteered to chair this group, is because when I attended the inaugural meeting last year before the group was officially formed, I wouldn't have considered myself a carer. It was whilst listening to an informative presentation from Carers in Southampton that I realised that many of the actions they mentioned that were undertaken by carers, such as helping with finances, organising appointments, ordering medication, helping with shopping and adapting life (in my case adapting and helping my mum), resonated with me.
“The network provides the time to share experiences. I have found it helpful to know I’m not alone in my situation, especially as we may be at different stages of the caring journey. It also offers a platform where we can raise questions or concerns, which can be progressed and provide us with an opportunity to hear about organisations which can offer help and advice. It has also made me aware of support and relevant groups, such as Carers in Soton, which I have since contacted. Not only did they give me advice and listen to me, but they also reviewed my case and went through a checklist of my mum’s requirements and my involvement – such as the financial benefits mum could claim and other organisations which could make my life easier, making me think about arrangements when I go on holiday or if I was unable to support my mum. I wish I had been aware of them earlier and hope by sharing my experiences today I can help others get the emotional and practical support earlier than I did.”
Andrew says that we sometimes forget to focus on our own wellbeing when caring for someone else. “I know how physically and emotionally hard it can be caring for someone – it’s easy to focus on being a carer whilst neglecting our own health and wellbeing and support - what the network offers is invaluable.
“A lot of staff may be providing unpaid practical or emotional support to a family member, a friend or another person young or old, who needs help or support to manage daily activities. Many colleagues may be doing this without realising they are a carer. This is why this network exists, to support those who really need it.”
After redundancy in late 2020, Andrew was fortunate enough to be able to consider part-time work so he could spend more time with his aging mum after Covid – not knowing that 18 months later she would have a stroke which would change her life dramatically and change his caring duties.
Andrew adds, “Mum is fatigued, can’t stand or walk, and is very confused since the stroke, which resulted in her moving permanently to a nursing care home. This has meant a whole new range of emotional and practical challenges.
“I am very grateful Solent started this group and I hope others can benefit from it like I have.”
Carers Staff Network meetings occur every two months. To become a member and to join whenever you can or feel the need to connect with others in a similar situation to you , please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrew with his mum