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Thursday, 7 December

Strengthening support for unpaid carers in Somerset

Photo of carers playing boccia

Somerset Carers groups take place across the county and offer a friendly and supportive space where carers can meet, share their experiences, and get information and advice from trained staff and volunteers.

Spark Somerset’s Development Coordinator, Cath Holloway, supports the groups and offers guidance on topics such as governance, policies, managing volunteers and finding funding to help them develop their skills, capacity and sustainability.

She says: “Caring for a loved one can be a positive and rewarding experience, but carers need support to continue their important role. The groups and volunteers who lead them are essential.

“We want the groups to be accessible to everyone and we found out from talking to attendees that their caring responsibilities can sometimes prevent them from coming.

“So, working with the group leaders, we applied for funding from Somerset Community Foundation to deliver cognitive and physical exercises for the person who is cared for. Our application was successful which means that people can now come along without the stress and cost of finding alternative care.

Activites are led by Freedom Leisure who recently attended our Yeovil group to host a game of boccia. One attendee, a former champion bowler living with dementia, was quite confused and fretful when he arrived, but after playing the game he seemed calmer and more settled.”

“The groups also give carers a chance to learn about other organisations and how they can help and we were joined by Staff from the Alzheimer’s society and The Filo Project who provided information, practical tips and resources for the carers.”

Attendee Jenny, who cares for her husband said:

There have been so many useful bits of information that I have picked up at the carers group. It is wonderful to be able to socialise with other people and have a change of scenery and a bit of a rest for the morning.

Jo Robinson, Dementia Adviser for the Alzheimer’s society, always encourages the people she works with to consider attending a carers support group. She said:

“They have seen huge positive effects in making friendships and supporting each other. The groups provide practical support and resources to sustain, as much as possible, carers independence.”

Nicola Cornish, Team Lead at the Filo Project, a CIC which specialises in day care for older people experiencing memory issues and isolation, added:

“It is great to come along to these sessions, to ensure that carers are aware of the help and support that is available.”

The groups are beneficial not only for the people who attend them, but also for the volunteers. Group leader, Carole, explained the positive impact the role has had on her own wellbeing:

My own mental health has greatly improved since I started my volunteering too, and I no longer need a counsellor. I have learnt a great deal not only from the group, but the professionals who have come to chat with us. I have made new friends and I feel in my own small way I am making a difference.

Read more about our work with Somerset Carers, a service provided by Community Council for Somerset, here.