The Care Collective on the podcast


Intro Music This is, internet radio for Scotland's Social Services

Michael McEwan: OK, now on we're going to hear about a new project in East Renfrewshire called The Care Collective. And we're joined by Ruth Gallacher from Voluntary Action, and we're joined by a carer- someone who has a disability, Collette Walker, and we're joined by Lynne Wardle from Thrive. So, we're going to find out about this exciting project, but I wanted to ask first of all if Ruth could give us a wee overview of what Voluntary Action is and what they provide.

Ruth Gallacher: Yep, no problem. Voluntary action is what's known as the third sector interface for East Renfrewshire. Which really means is that 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're interested in setting up a group, then we'll help you to think through what you need to do, where you can get funding, what kind of organisation you want to be. If you want to be involved in volunteering, we'll help you find an opportunity. If you need volunteers, we'll help you to think through what that needs to look like. But if you actually just want to get involved in your local community, pop in, have a chat with us and we'll help you out.

Michael McEwan: Cool, that's good. So, I'll turn to Lynne first. Lynne, why is it so important to do this project?

Lynne Wardle: I think the most important thing is that in every community, people pass by each other day to day in the streets, they interact with the local authorities, with 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?"

And we've been talking to lots of people who care for other people. And do you know what, most of us, at some point in our lives will care for somebody else. And that can be great, or it can be really quite hard sometimes. So, we've got the opportunity to talk to each other about what that's like like, what support we might give each other, and what support we might get from public services. And I think that's really important.

There's new legislation coming in because government has recognised how important it is to appreciate, acknowledge, and support carers. And, we've got an opportunity right now in East Ren to work together to make sure that that legislation best supports people here. So, I think just now is a really important time for the care collective. 

Michael McEwan: Ruth, why East Renfrewshire? 

Ruth Gallacher: To be honest, East Renfrewshire, because we work here, Voluntary Action is here and Thrive is our partner organisation. 

We're actually quite lucky in that we have a fairly forward thinking Health and Social Care Partnership. And it's the Health and Social Care Partnership who has commissioned us to do this work. Because they are fully committed to looking at getting the legislation and using, and what the Scottish Government are giving us is a tool that people in East Renfrewshire an opportunity to get involved and to shape it. So in East Renfrewshire, we're doing the care collective because we've been commissioned to but because this is an opportunity. This is a good place to do it and we have actually have a very vocal, engaged and enthusiastic people that live in East Renfrewshire that 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. 

Michael McEwan: Lynne, tell us a bit about your organisation and a background overview of your organisation

Lynne Wardle: Sure. Thrive is my organisation. We've got a small team, and we're 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 we're doing here, all over the UK. The work we do is about helping people from different organisations and different communities to work better together. That sounds really easy and straight forward but, it's not. And you know if you get different people from different organisations in the same room, you'll find that people talk about the same thing, but it sounds like they are talking about something totally different.  So, our work involves helping people have the same conversation, 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 between different organisations to help them to work better together. 

Michael McEwan: Collette, can I turn to you? What do you think about The Care Collective and the bit of work that Thrive and Voluntary Action are doing in East Renfrewshire?

Collette Walker: Well, I'm really glad to be involved in the new Carers' Bill that's coming in. I don't think just now that East Renfrewshire Council as such is fully listening to the actual carers themselves, and the difficulties they are having every day of their lives. 

Carers, as Ruth said, will say "Look, I'm struggling with this", or "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 kind of get forgotten about. And time goes by, and you're still in that rut. Whereas now, if we get, through The Care Collective to actually get the stats and to analyse everything that is 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 that we could make quite a progressive to the whole system for the carers but also the person that's being cared for. 

So yeah, I'm so excited about it actually happening in the first place, and I'm looking forward to seeing results and working along side Ruth and Lynne

Michael McEwan: And what do you think about the services now? Are they working or are they failing?

Collette Walker: Em, I think it's a bit of a mixture. I think that they can work, but again, it's who shouts loudest. And if you're in a position that you became 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 caring role, you don't have the time or the energy to keep on. Where as, if you have a community around you that can say "Get in contact with them, 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, and Hollyrood only has limited expenses to pass onto each council. Each council then is getting a budget cut every year. 

But again, in East Renfrewshire, we've got one of the highest populations of disabled people and carers, but our budget is getting reduced. And, then it has a domino effect on the resources within the social work department because the departments are losing staff left over fist, they really are. I think last year there was about 50% reduction in staff. The turnover's very high because they can't keep up with the demands of their jobs. So there is a big, a huge domino effect to actually cutting the budget to the social care department.

So, if you don't have that confidence to speak up and ask for help, and many people don't, especially carers, because they feel like they are failing themselves as a person, and they're failing the person that they're caring for. If they don't have that voice to speak up, they're not going to get anything. And then there is a wee bit of resentment, when they speak to another carer and they hear "oh, but I get this and I get that" "Well how did you get that?" Yeah, but 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 be a wee bit more assertive than that other person, which shouldn't be the case. It should be equal for everybody. 

Michael McEwan: So, I've been involved in a lot of these pop-up events with the Care Collective, and Ruth has been involved in many more than me. So, tell us what has the feedback been like from the workshops?  

Ruth Gallacher: I think overall the engagement work that we have done, going out, talking to people on the street,  going to where carers are already meeting or where their services are happening. Most of what we are getting kind of echoes what Collette is saying. There's a mixed bag of services that provide, and the biggest thing is about not knowing what you are entitled to, not knowing how to access it, but not realising until you are in it, in a crisis, that 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've been through the system then you know what's out there, you've accessed it. Passing that knowledge onto someone else who is in the same position as you is half the battle. Knowing where to get help, knowing how to get it and what you're entitled to.

But 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 wake up one morning and realise, "oh, 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, or wahtever the position that you're in. When you suddenly have the realisation that you're a carer, you're not prepared for that. It's not something that is taught at school. It's not something that you pick up a leaflet, and it's there in your face, and you know what carers are. So access to information is really 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 you need to speak to, or the carers centre, or Calm, or the Job Centre. 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? 

Michael McEwan: Lynne, what events have you got coming up after August?

Lynne Wardle: Well, we don't have a fixed programme of events, because ultimately we want people to tell us what would be useful for them. So, we've just finished a couple of workshops this week. One with people who are providing services in and around East Renfrewshire. Some specifically for carers, others not. And also with some parents who have particular responsibiliteis for their children with additional needs.

We've been asking these groups "What would be good for you? What do we need to do next?" So what we'll be doing over the next coming months is reconvening groups, getting more people involved at the times and places that work for them to start saying "Where are the main themes? Where do we really want to focus our efforts as 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're going to be looking at those. And we'll also be looking at the legislation because the legislation has got some responsibilities in there around assessment, respite, care and young carers' 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 that 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 we know people want, and giving people opportunities to talk with one another, meet with one another and share ideas of what could work best in the future. 

All of our events are on our Facebook page and our website, so if people want to get involved, make sure you keep visiting those places regularly. 

Michael McEwan: Collette why is this bit of work so important to East Renfrewshire, and why is it so important to recognise that as well?

Collette Walker: As I said, East Renfrewshire itself has the highest percentage of disabled people. Especially additional needs children, and obviously then the carers themselves. Now, the Isobelle Mair School, for example, which caters for additional needs. But then everybody starts to move into East Renfrewshire because it is a well-known school. People Know about Isobelle Mair, people recommend Isobelle Mair, so more people move into East Renfrewshire Council. And it only opened up seven years ago, and it's now over it's capacity. It's a domino effect. But we then need to realise that the amount of people that need the care and support is increasing year in year out.

But also not now only for the younger disabled people, it's them who are now leaving Isobelle Mair and going onto adult services. Which again, is a huge big issue about the transition and support that's out there as well because things are changing, budget changes.

Even self-directed payments. We used to have a self-directed payment department, and now it's social work that's dealing with self-directed payments. 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're talking to The Care Collective, I'm putting across the idea of some kind of directory that can be updated through an app or a website or something that gives you general information from different stages of diagnosis, right through to adulthood. For East Renfrewshire, different phone numbers, different websites- because they do change all the time. You know, I mean, you might look up a website, and it hasn't been updated and it tells you to phone the Self Directed Department. It doesn't exist anymore! Because everything keeps getting shuffled about all the time. It's hard to keep up. So, it would be really good if The Care Collective could work together, as we're now doing, to 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 the support that they need. So, yeah, it's a big project but it's really really badly needed. 

Michael McEwan: So, Lynne, Ruth,  can I ask you this question? How can people get involved and they stay in this area, in East Renfrewshire, and want to get involved? What's the proper channels

Ruth Gallacher: There's a number of routes in. So, we have a Facebook page, we have a website, we have a Twitter feed as well. Essentially, if you are in and around Barrhead, you can walk into Voluntary Action's building. You can call us on the Voluntary Action number with is 0141 876 9555. You'll see us out and about. We'll be wearing bright t-shirts- pink, blue and purple with a 'C' on it and our hashtag at the bottom is #wecareeastren

Michael McEwan: Thanks, and I wish you all the best with the work that you're doing.