Mid Essex Mind and Spirit
On 23 rd February the Mid Essex Branch of Essex Mind and Spirit hosted a presentation on the work of Carers First Essex. Carers First Essex is part of a larger group, Carers First, which was formed in 1991 by a group of volunteers in Kent coming together to tackle some of the needs of carers in their local area. Many were or had been carers themselves.
Our speakers were Donna King who is the mid Essex lead of Carers First Essex and her colleague Gillian Woodham, who is based in Chelmsford. Donna began by giving us some statistics which showed just how many people were involved in caring for family members in our county. Currently there are 31,882 carers in Essex. The economic value of their contribution amounts to £320,548 per hour. However, as she explained, the cost experienced by the carers themselves goes well beyond financial considerations such as lost income. For although many people find the experience of caring for partners or other family members positive and rewarding, carers can find themselves isolated and overwhelmed by their situation; their physical and emotional health compromised over time.
Gillian talked about how Carers First Essex assists local carers. They organise groups which meet on a monthly basis. These may be informal ‘get- togethers’ aiming to provide mutual support and friendship. Other groups focus on providing information about particular health specialisms such autism or dementia. Carers First Essex also provides 1 to 1 support by running surgeries around the county. Other services they provide include help in applying for benefits, signposting to other agencies and training and workshop sessions. They also have hospital based staff who can help before, during and after admission to hospital.
The talk was very well received. Some of the audience had personal experience as carers or had friends or relatives who had cared for someone. There was much discussion about the emotional costs to carers and their families. I think we all gained a greater understanding of the challenges faced every day by carers who are part of our community but often hidden from view.