Link no longer missing

“Carers are a difficult group to reach out to, but their needs
are often acute and making sure that they have support often means
that crisis intervention services are avoided further down the

The Carers’ Link Project, this year’s winner of the
Carers category, has successful reached out to this group and
harnessed the power of partnership working to make a real
difference to carers’ lives.

The project is run by North Staffordshire Carers Association and
was set up in November 2001. It now works with more than 300
doctors’ surgeries, hospitals and social services

Central to its strategy to reach out to carers is to make a
carers’ information file and a carers’ link contact
available in each one of those settings. The information file gives
carers a wide range of information including a resources section
with contact details of useful groups, help with where to get
advice on money, legal matters and respite care and advice on

Importantly, where there is a carer information file, there is a
carer link contact – a worker with an interest in carers’
issues who is trained by North Staffordshire Carers Association,
but employed by health or social services. “Their job is to
actively identify carers and help them navigate their way around
the services that are available to them,” Mary Waddington, the
association’s liaison officer explains.

“Our motto is ‘prospering with partnership’. We are
all prospering – carers are doing better, health and social care
are doing better and we work better because each agency knows what
the others are doing,” Waddington says.

The project is far from complacent and is always looking for new
ways to identify people in the community who need help. “We provide
police officers and paramedics with details of the project and our
address so when they come across a carer they can give them our
details and tell them to get in touch with us. The meals on wheels
service will also be handing out our details where appropriate so
we can get information directly into people’s front doors,”
Waddington says.

She would like GPs in the area to mark their records to show
that a person is a carer. “They should then be able to identify
when a health problem is related to their caring role. It’s
at that stage when a GP needs to say: ‘You need an
assessment.’ I am optimistic that we will be able to get that
in place before too long.”

Winning the award, she says, has brought welcome recognition of
their work. “It was just unbelievable. When we got the letter
saying we were shortlisted, we were over the moon and I don’t
think any of us dared to hope that we could win.

“We know how valuable the service is, and we know it’s not
being done anywhere else, but we are not very good at blowing our
own trumpet. We went determined to have a wonderful day and be
proud we had been shortlisted. Of course the crowning glory was
winning – we are all delighted,” Waddington says.

Their success has led to coverage in the local press and radio,
and Waddington is keen to spread the message about their work in
the hope that it will be adopted by agencies around the

They are not short of ideas about how the £5,000 prize
money will be used – suggestions include putting together a goody
bag for carers; some profile-raising newspaper and radio
advertising; and investing in more pampering days for carers.

“What a lot of carers tell us they need most is to relax so we
have teamed up with some nurses and occupational therapists from
the hospital who practise various complementary therapies.

“We offer a free lunch, and give our carers the chance to come
and have a head massage, or some acupuncture, and a chance to
switch off and recharge their batteries which is really
appreciated,” Waddington says.

The carers category was sponsored by Reliance

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