How one conversation can make it all worthwhile

Two years ago, we held our first Charity Ball and Carer Friendly Awards; it was a big step for us at the time, mostly put together by devoted staff and volunteers. As a busy CEO, my job was to turn up and say a few words and, along with a Trustee, give out the awards – Carer of the Year, Young Carer of the Year, Carer-friendly Business, etc.

I should define what I mean by a carer: If the term community care means anything to you, it refers to people, mostly family members, friends or neighbours, caring for a loved one in their own or their cared for person’s home. You can work out if you are a carer, as most of us are at some point, and do think about it.

But what tips the balance is usually exhaustion, isolation, loneliness, and having to give up work to care for a willing parent or spouse, a disabled sibling, or a drug-dependent parent. Carers and the people they care for come in all shapes and sizes.

Carers are immensely resilient. Indeed, I can remember when it was taken for granted that the foundations of our society – our quality of life – what we today call our “well-being” or “work-life balance” – were dependent on the strength and bonds of our extended intergenerational families and neighbourhoods.

Back to the Awards: The mood in the room was amazing. Everyone had an enjoyable time. The presenter, Phil Upton, from BBC West Midlands, was amazingly professional. Even when one winner dropped and smashed their award, nothing could stifle the positive energy (and the award was replaced a couple of weeks later).

At the end, when people were dancing and socialising, a young woman in her early twenties approached me and, with some emotion, said, “Carers Trust saved my life”.  It was very moving how she explained how isolated she had been as a young carer and how the team had supported her over the years to access support and social networks with other young carers. Afterwards, I thought how powerful this was; she was now a capable young person in further education with a zeal to give back what she had received.

Rebecca Wall, Winner of the Young Carer of the Year Award 2022

I date that simple exchange – a sentence or two – as one that revitalised me. The challenges of running a busy charity seemed more minor, and the opportunities to take stock of what we have achieved were a little more vibrant. Work as a vocation if you like.

Those who have worked in social care for forty years or so – in whatever setting or sector – know there is a lot of processing, surveillance, and bureaucracy, some vital, some necessary, some in urgent need of pruning.

But the abiding factor is now termed “impact”, the sustainable change for the good in people’s lives that becomes self-sustaining long after the support is withdrawn. The best testament to this is not just data sets, KPIs and quality audits… it’s the self-descriptions of our service users.

Saving someone’s life is a rather good impact.

We are getting ready for our second Awards in June 2024. Let us know if you want to attend.

Related Whats on, Adult Carer, Young Adult Carer, Young Carer

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Raising awareness with BBC Radio WM

Our own Pauline Manby shared with Merisha Stevenson of BBC Radio WM, the work we do to help support and raise awareness for unpaid carers. Watch the segment here.

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