Thanks to the committee for inviting me to speak at your AGM. I am delighted to be here and to tell you about a cause that we are passionate about – respite for family carers. Caring Breaks Ltd is a modern and innovative respite service for the family carers of adults with a learning disability. We provide regular respite breaks for family carers and a range of social and recreational activities for adults with a learning disability.
So who are you and what do you do? Caring Breaks was formed after consultation with family carers of adults with a learning disability in the South & East Belfast area. It evolved from the identification of scarce and fragmented respite options for the family carers of adults with a learning disability. In 1998 research into respite care was commissioned by Caring Breaks in partnership with the legacy South & East Belfast H&SST. The work was carried out by Professor Roy McConkey and Dr Chris Conliffe – they looked at respite provision here in NI and also internationally. Their report highlighted the reliance that family carers of people with a learning disability place on respite to enable them to cope with their caring responsibilities. It also backed up what was evident to carers – that respite was extremely scarce and that a very small number of people were lucky enough to receive any respite at all. Hence Caring Breaks was formed – based on the Natural Breaks model in Merseyside. It is a partnership between carers themselves and people from the business and statutory sectors. The service sits very well in the context of recent government strategies for carers and in fact is already delivering on many of the recommendations contained within for instance, the Bamford Review and the Carers Strategy. The service has been independently evaluated – most recently in 2007 and found to be delivering excellent outcomes for our service users.
A sub group dedicated to pursuing carers interests was established when Caring Breaks was first formed. They are actively involved in the management and development of the service. For instance they are involved in recruitment and selection of staff, they monitor and review the policies and procedures of the organisation and use standards developed from the National Strategy for Carers as a benchmark for quality assurance.
The term “conscience free” was coined by family carers themselves – by that they mean that they can make plans secure in the knowledge that their son or daughter is not only being well cared for and doing something they enjoy but also something that will help develop them socially and as individuals.
Referral to the programme is through social services, usually the social work teams. A carer profile, which was developed by carers themselves is completed for every family and used to assess the impact of care giving and also to identify stressors in the life of the carer. It was carers themselves who set the criteria for referral.
We recognise that carers have the right to have their own health, social and emotional needs met. That they require flexible and responsive support, tailored to meet individual needs. Caring Breaks can help to alleviate the burden of continuous care felt by many carers. We also understand the unique relationship they have with their son or daughter and see we them as experts who can guide our staff. They are fully consulted and involved in the planning of the respite as is the person with the learning disability.
It has been well documented that regular short breaks can mean the difference between families coping and breaking down. The activities provided by Caring Breaks promote social inclusion for the person with the learning disability. The service is quite unique in the context of respite provision as it is dedicated to providing short breaks for carers and at the same time offering opportunities for social, recreational and leisure activities in the local community for adults with learning disabilities.
The emphasis is on the promotion of the rights of people with learning disabilities to participate in ordinary recreational and leisure activities afforded the wider community. It aims to reduce the social isolation felt by what is often a marginalised and disadvantaged group of people. This is done by offering a wide range of activities but it is our clients, adults with learning disabilities who make their choice about the kind of activity they want. Clients pay for their own activities and meals and staff costs are met by Caring Breaks. The service is user led – breaks can be weekdays, evenings or weekends.
Specialist activities such as abseiling, canoeing, archery, orienteering, etc are provided on the weekend breaks and we use providers who are experts in delivering these type of activities. A very positive spin off has been the relationship that has developed between our clients and other service providers – again this broadens the horizons not only of our clients but also of the people providing instruction for these specialist activities.
The relevant policies and strategies that relate to Caring Breaks.
CARING BREAKS LTD• A respite service for carers of adults with learning disabilities- making a real difference to the lives of carers
CARING BREAKS INTRODUCTION• Registered Charity – since 2000• Research and Consultation with Family Carers• Carers/Business/Statutory Partnership• Service located in the context of Government Policy and Research• Independently Evaluated• Found to be delivering excellent outcomes for carers and adults with learning disabilities
Carer Involvement• Dedicated carer sub group• Actively involved in managing the service• Establishing company standards• Monitoring and reviewing policies
VISION FOR THE SERVICE• To provide regular “conscience free” respite breaks for carers enabling them to pursue lifestyles of their choice.• To work in partnership with carers and adults with learning disabilities to develop social activities in the local community.
Criteria for Referral to Caring BreaksPriority is given to:• Older carers• Those coping alone• Those who care for more than one person• Those who do not use any other services
Beneficiaries - Recognising and meeting the needs of family carers• Right to a life• Peace of mind• Flexible and responsive support• Time to pursue their own interests• Equal partners – nature of respite determined by carer and adult with learning disability• Carers are actively involved in managing the service
• Regular respite breaks• Safe, reliable and person centred service• Offer a range of activities that encourage community participation
Beneficiaries - Recognising and meeting the needs of adults with learning disabilities• Social and personal development• Reduce social isolation• A variety of social, recreational and environmental activities• Short breaks• Raise the profile of people with learning disabilities in the community
Activities for Adults with Learning Disabilities• Variety of fun leisure activities• Promoting choice• Weekend break activities• Environmental activities
Project located in the context of policy and research• National Strategy for Carers 1999• Valuing Carers 2001• Equal Lives Report (Bamford) 2005• Caring for Carers NI Strategy 2006• Standards for Carers Support 2008