The Family Welfare Association’s Carers Connect project provides practical and emotional support to carers of people with mental health difficulties in the London borough of Tower Hamlets.
The association enables carers to:
- gain the knowledge and skills to find appropriate services, benefits and grants;
- access education and employment opportunities;
- resolve debt and housing issues;
- find a little respite for themselves.
Tower Hamlets is one of the most deprived boroughs in the UK and is home to large black and minority ethnic communities, particularly Bengali and Somali. The problems of access to mental health services here are exacerbated by the stigma that may be attached to mental illness.
To provide appropriate carer support in a private and safe environment, the association has recruited a team of Sylheti, Somali and Arabic-speaking workers from the local community to make local home visits. By being aware of religious, cultural and spiritual needs, the team can establish trust and engage with carers in a way that statutory services find difficult.
Carers Connect is making services more appropriate by ensuring BME carers have a say in the local provision of mental health and carers’ services. A steering group has been set up enabling representatives from the local authority, the mental health trust and the voluntary sector to meet carers in quarterly meetings.
Sharing best practice plays a vital role in improving services for carers and identifying gaps. The Family Welfare Association is producing a training video highlighting the needs of carers, featuring interviews with carers and professionals. Once completed, it will be translated into minority languages and distributed widely among professionals and community groups.