“It really means something to have that kind of endorsement of your
work from your peers,” says Suzanne Munday, manager of the Access
Initiative that walked away as winners of the carers’ category at
the Community Care Awards 2004.
The Access Initiative is run by the Minority Ethnic Carers of Older
People Project in partnership with Edinburgh Council; West Lothian
Council; minority ethnic carers and older people. Its twin aims are
to give carers from Edinburgh’s south Asian and Chinese communities
a break from caring and to provide culturally competent services
for older members of the family who need care.
The project came about because there were limited services for
carers and the strain within their families was considerable.
Munday says: “For a lot of older people from ethnic minorities one
of the biggest issues is isolation because there are
limited opportunities for them to participate within their
She adds: “People wanted somewhere they could meet, but not just to
sit around They wanted activities that were meaningful and
stimulating. They want to do things they feel are making a
contribution and go home and tell their families about their
The Access Initiative employed its first worker in August 2003 to
work with the older Asian community, and a year later funding was
secured for a second worker to work with the Chinese community. It
works with two day-care providers in Sighthill in Edinburgh and
Whitdale House in West Lothian and has set up three groups
supporting 20 older people from ethnic minorities. As a result, the
families and carers of these people enjoy 100 hours of respite each
Providing culturally competent services was a challenge but one
that the project has clearly risen to, says Munday. “The project
did a lot of awareness-raising among the community, day service
providers, the council and the other users of the day service. We
consulted people about what they wanted and fed that back to our
“We had to develop training to meet the needs of the staff so they
were able to deliver culturally competent services – at a practice
level and to give them an understanding of the policy agenda. We
had to think about things like diet, personal care needs, religious
observance,” Munday says.
She adds that they also had a lot of work to do with the existing
users of the services many of whom had not been used to services in
a multicultural setting. “Some were worried about how they were
going to communicate with a group that didn’t speak much English.
Older people can have deeply entrenched attitudes about race, and
the worker had a lot of work to do on this.”
Once that work was in place the project worker put some training
material together for day centre staff on preparing suitable food,
and they also had to negotiate with the social work department on
transport and catering. Munday is complimentary about the
department. “They have been very open to changing how they operated
to meet the needs of this service,” she says.
Feedback from carers and the older people has been highly positive
with many of the older people describing the project as a lifeline.
“What has been tremendous is that we now have a waiting list of
older ethnic minority people waiting for the service,” Munday says.
“Families have noticed a huge difference too. In some ways it’s
changed family dynamics because family members are getting out
doing interesting things and alleviating the pressure.”
The awards ceremony was a great boost: “We had a fantastic time,”
Looking ahead, the project plans to spend the award money on
developing more activities – such as complementary therapies –
which will be available to all the users of the day centre not just
the Access Initiative’s clients. “They are one of the reasons we
have been so successful.”