Shared care in Sheffield

support scheme in Sheffield for family carers over the age of 70
won the carers category award at this year’s Community Care awards.
Alison Miller reports.

often fall through the gaps in service provision, and this can be a
particular problem for older carers. So the judges of the carers
category at the Community Care awards were particularly
impressed by the Older Carers Support Scheme (OCSS), part of
Community Health Sheffield NHS Trust.

conducted by the Sharing Caring Project, a carers’ charity and a
Community Care award winner in 1998, revealed that older family
carers of people with learning difficulties wanted regular contact
with statutory services. They also wanted to build positive
relationships with services likely to have input into the lives of
the person they care for in the future.

respond to these needs, the OCSS was set up in August 2000 with a
remit to work with carers over the age of 70 who are caring for a
person with learning difficulties. It employs two full-time older
carer support visitors and has clerical support for eight hours
each week. The project works closely with Sheffield Mencap’s
Sharing Caring Project and Sheffield social services, and has
funding until August 2002, after which it hopes it can secure
further funding.

Winter is the project’s general manager. “Our focus is purely on
supporting the carer, many of whom are in need of services and are
very fearful about what will happen to the person they are caring
for if anything happens to them,” she explains.

“We did
a lot of work developing a questionnaire for carers to find out how
they felt about the services on offer, and to find out what else
they needed. The visitors spent two to three weeks visiting all the
services within Sheffield – a big part of their role is to be aware
of what services are out there,” she says.

is proud of how successful it has been in working in partnership
with other agencies, and with the people who use its service. It is
in constant contact with agencies in the voluntary and statutory
sector. Winter says housing repairs are a good example of where
visitors are able to identify a need for a service and tap into the
housing department at Sheffield Council to get them done.

visitors meet carers at least once a year and go through the
questionnaire with them, so they can identify what services or help
are needed. All carers are also offered monthly telephone contact.
OCSS says the visitors act as a bridge to appropriate help and
services, whatever these may be. In fact, these are amazingly
varied and range from access to respite services through to help
with nuisance neighbours or financial and legal advice from
Sheffield’s welfare rights service and the Citizens’ Advice

explains that it is often help with practical and everyday problems
that makes all the difference to people’s lives. The project has
helped carers get access to council services in transport,
environmental health and housing. It has also worked with City Wide
Alarms to organise low-cost burglar alarms, chiropody services and
even for somebody to pop in to take down curtains.

In its
first year OCSS visited 188 family carers and helped 69 families
make referrals for social services. Another 53 were helped with
financial problems and 20 have received extra health support.

£4,000 prize money will be used to employ and train sessional
workers to help 35 families complete life books. These books were
developed and sent out to 600 people with learning difficulties
living at home with family carers over the age of 55. Their aim was
to ensure that the deeply personal information about the person
with learning difficulties was not lost when their carer died, and
to help support them through major life changes.

“One of
the many things we identified through the project was that many of
the older carers had some difficulty completing these life books,
because it was too painful emotionally,” Winter explains. The team
is delighted that the prize money will go a long way to help. “We
are pleased as Punch. The money will enable us to move ahead with
the very important work of putting the life books together,” says
Winter, who estimates that 35 of the most vulnerable families will
now get the support they need to finish their books.

– The
carers category was sponsored by Reliance Care.

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