Carers Week 2016: Carers Support Merton

Adult Carers from Carers Support Merton taking part in the creative:voices programme.

For Carers Week 2016 Create is celebrating its amazing carer friendly partner organisations. Today we’d like to introduce you to Carers Support Merton (CSM) – a charity providing support, advice and respite to young and adult carers – which we’ve worked with since 2012 on programmes for unpaid carers of all ages. Here we highlight the support that CSM offer adult carers in particular, and our collaborative arts programme, creative:voices.

The needs of adult carers using CSM’s services are addressed by its Adult Carers Team: staff who offer information, support and advice. CSM’s Adult Carers Team provides a range of support services: delivering free training and workshops on carers’ rights; helping carers with benefits entitlement and financial difficulty; existing as mediators between carers and agencies; and providing young adult carers with access to education, training and work. Emotional support through a Counselling Service and therapies is also available on a one-to-one basis, with CSM facilitating a space in which adult carers’ views are listened to and concerns and experiences can be shared.

CSM’s group respite activities enable adult carers to take time away from their caring responsibilities; days out, monthly walking and book clubs, social events, and engagement in cultural activities all provide an opportunity to unwind and relax in the company of others.

This is where Create’s relationship with CSM lies: our creative:voices multi-arts project has been integrated into this array of respite activities which, through their interactive nature, enable adult carers to develop new relationships and skills. creative:voices has brought CSM’s adult carers together to explore a variety of art forms, with sessions in creative writing and storytelling, illustration, jewellery making and photography.

According to an NHS report, caring responsibilities are shown to have an adverse impact on the physical and mental health, education and employment potential of those who care, which can result in significantly poorer health and quality of life outcomes. creative:voices offers an enjoyable, stress-free environment away from potential strains to a carer’s health. Research has evidenced that a higher frequency of engagement with arts and culture is generally associated with a higher level of subjective wellbeing (Arts Council England 2014).

Harriet (not her real name) has been attending CSM for 13 years. Last year, she took part in our creative:voices storybook writing and illustration workshops. She talked to us about her caring role and time on the project:

“I started attending Carers Support Merton for support reasons, really, so I knew that I would be linked with people who happen to be in a similar situation. There is the opportunity here to learn from each other by knowing each other and an opportunity for friendships with other families with special needs/issues. My son has autism, which means he does need, or has needed in the past, quite a bit of supervision and organisation. Finding things for him to do in the holidays is more complex so it’s useful to be here and to get information, which I would not otherwise know about. 

“I was told about the creative:voices project by a staff member and they asked if I would like to join it. The workshops have been very high quality and I’m very impressed with how organised it has been. 

I haven’t done anything like this project before. It has made me realise that, even after so many years of having so many commitments with our children, it is still possible for us to do stuff like this!  It’s a confidence builder and it’s very welcome in our lives. If another project like this comes up I’ll be going. 

“Create’s artists have given us a great deal of encouragement, and they have given us all these strategies for how to make a children’s book. Actually to be able to try it out for yourself, make a book of your own, is very useful. 

“What I’ve loved about the project is that it’s so diverse and there is such a scope for your own individual creative thinking. It’s also really good to work with someone else and share their ideas; their ideas are good for you and your ideas might be good for them. The workshops give me a sense of satisfaction because you end up with something that you have actually devised and created yourself, along with the other person you have been working with. It’s rewarding. 

“Projects like this are really important because we all get together, not necessarily to talk to each other but to do something really useful like this. It gives us an objective. Some people are creative, some people have talents they didn’t know they have. I think that all these projects should be really encouraged everywhere where there are people who perhaps don’t find it that easy. It gives people something different to do and an opportunity to discover new talents.”  

For more information on Carers Support Merton head to their website.