2019 is drawing to a close so we wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on the year. There have been many highlights and we are very grateful to our many volunteers, supporters and donors – without them many of the groups and events we run wouldn’t be possible.

February

February saw the launch of a new carer café in Marlborough. The new café was made possible with funding from the Tesco Bags of Help initiative. It meets on the last Wednesday of every month from 10:15am – 11:45am at St Peter’s Church and is a fantastic place for carers from the north east of the county to meet up and enjoy some downtime with other carers.

It’s really difficult to pre-plan or go out for long periods of time when you look after someone and we often can’t afford to do anything. It’s so nice to get out, on my own or with my daughter. Sometimes caring can make you feel a bit isolated.

Jean, carer

May

Garden parties seem a distant memory now it’s December, but we held a fantastic one at Tidworth Oval for carers and their families in May thanks to funding from Tesco Bags of Help. Many families receiving support through our Courage to Care project – aimed at carers in Forces families – were in attendance and everyone particularly enjoyed the circle dancing!

June

Carers Week took place in June and we ran a number of events over the 7 days aimed at supporting and celebrating those who care for someone. The highlights of the week were events at three community hospitals – Chippenham, Savernake and Warminster. All of the hospitals now run regular carer services, including cafes and an information service.

I’m delighted that carer awareness is becoming fully embedded throughout our Community Hospitals with carers central to new admission documentation, Patient Trackers, which link to GP surgeries, and discharge summaries, all of which raise profiles of carers. New systems will transform how staff recognise and consider carers. A new Ward Accreditation Scheme and Carer Friends training programme are on their way in 2020!!

Jackie Maton, Health and Community Engagement Worker

In June we also recognised and celebrated Wiltshire GP practices who support carers at our annual GP Accreditation Scheme Awards. Practices need to meet a number of requirements, such as maintaining an up-to-date carers register, having a carers lead and holding regular carers clinics. 28 practices were awarded the highest Platinum level.

I have been a GP almost thirty years and have experienced the ever increasing pressures on primary care to look after patients. Under this pressure it can be difficult to think about the equally vital role we have in looking after their carers and this scheme has been a highly effective way to help us do this.

Dr Patrick Craig-McFeely, Hindon Surgery, Salisbury

We also took a group of Carer Support volunteers to Iford Manor as a thank you to them for their hard work and support. We enjoyed a cream tea and guided tour of these historic gardens. Volunteers are vital to enabling us to carry out our work – you can find out about volunteering for us here.

July

Our 2019 appeal Time for Carers was launched to raise £30,000 to give unpaid carers a break. The money will be used to fund breaks and leisure activities for carers – paying for respite care and activities such as theatre trips, yoga courses and gym memberships.

August

Our Young Adult Carer team works tirelessly throughout the year supporting carers aged 18-25yrs – a group that faces unique challenges, especially around education and starting work. We work with an inspiring group of young people and have a core group who often meet for carer cafes and other activities. Earlier in the year they traveled to Southampton for a CV and interview skills workshop followed by a trip to an escape room, made possible by generous funding from Quilter. It was a fantastic and worthwhile day enjoyed by all.

My highlight this year is a young adult carers who didn’t make it to university this year as he had so many barriers to overcome. He got a job at Greggs and I praised him for his work ethic while stressing that if he changed his mind about university to let me know and I would support him to get there. After 3 months he said he had made the wrong choice. We supported him to apply for university, attend interviews, fill in applications and apply for funding. It was touch and go and very stressful but he got a place at university this October. He is back home for Christmas and has texted me to wish me a Merry Christmas and said he was over the moon being at university. Just the best Christmas message ever!

Andrea James, Young Adult Carer Support Worker

September

A new Creative Carers group was launched in Warminster – it takes place on the last Thursday of every month from 1-3pm at Warminster Library. Here’s a recent picture of the group making Christmas wreaths and table centrepieces.

I am very pleased to have started a Creative Carers Group in Warminster which is run by a lovely volunteer and enjoyed by a core group of six carers and has potential to grow.

They have just had their Christmas tree displayed in the Minster Church in Warminster, which is lovely.  These sort of groups are so good for peer support, the carers attending are planning to lead on some of the classes and talk to each other between meetings about their craft skills and how they can encourage everyone to enjoy what they are learning.  It’s nice for them to forget about their caring roles, just for a little while.

Diana James, Community Connector

In September we were also able to treat 23 carers to a canal barge trip to Caen Hill in Devizes. The trip was funded by the insurance firm Zurich and some of their staff also attended and helped make it a sociable and memorable day for all.

I want to express my appreciation for the very enjoyable and relaxing trip. Given the circumstance of my wife’s terminal illness, it was my first day out for almost 18 months and I am very grateful to you all.

Sid, carer

Westonbirt School held their annual cream tea for carers in September and carers and their loved one got to spend the afternoon exploring the beautiful school and grounds and generally enjoying the hospitality.

I just wanted to thank you. I didn’t realise how just 2 hours would make such a difference to me as a parent carer! It can be very isolating and can affect my own confidence.

Shona, carer

Westonbirt School kindly invited carers to attend a delicious cream tea for carers this September. The staff and pupils and even the house puppy all got involved! Thank you to Westonbirt School for all their support, we are truly grateful. Anyone who wasn’t able to attend – not to worry, as we’ll be hosting two more events next year so keep a look out in upcoming e-newsletters for how to register –  I look forward to seeing you there!

Rachael Demery, Community Fundraising Officer

November

The 21st of November was Carers Rights Day. Melksham Town Hall was lit up red to show support for unpaid carers and we joined up with a number of carer support organisations and chatted to carers throughout the day.

December

As 2019 draws to a close we’re really thrilled to have reached £12,000 of our £30,000 target for the Time for Carers Appeal. We are very grateful to all of the local groups, clubs, businesses and individuals who have raised money in order to ensure carers have much needed breaks.

Happy Christmas to everyone who has been on the journey with us this year. We’ll see you in 2020!