Engaging the community in developing a future strategy for carers support

East Renfrewshire Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) was required to implement the Carers Act, develop a new Carers Strategy and commission new support services.  Senior Commissioner, Kevin Beveridge, saw the Carers Act as an opportunity for the HSCP to develop a strategy that placed the needs of local people at its heart and built on partnerships between the HSCP and the local community.  Kevin commissioned Thrive to work with local organisations to co-design Carers services based on engagement with local people.

Working closely with the local Third Sector Interface, the Carers Centre and the HSCP team, we developed a programme of engagement to generate insights that would lead to better services. Our engagement activity included:

  • Developing a ‘brand’ for the project to raise awareness and build engagement

  • Ethnographic research with a range of Carers and their families

  • Workshops with young carers in local secondary schools

  • Workshops with parent carers

  • On-street engagement across the Local Authority area

  • A social media campaign

  • Development of a local leadership group to take forward changes

One of our early findings through the research and engagement was that people who looked after family members or loved ones rarely described themselves as ‘carers’.  They were husbands, wives, sons, daughters, partners and friends. ‘Carer’ was a term people more often associated with people paid to provide ‘care at home’. People also told us that looking after someone else could be hard, that there was a stigma attached to caring and that at times they felt judged.  To engage local people in shaping services for ‘carers’ we needed to describe ‘caring’ in terms they would recognise and create a safe space where people felt listened to and heard. 

To build awareness, encourage participation and begin to challenge stigma associated with caring, we created a vibrant, up-beat and engaging brand identity for the 'Care Collective.'  We began a proactive social media campaign, building a new website and making connections with others through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. By sharing people’s stories and encouraging feedback, we expanded the breadth and depth of our engagement and encouraged people to connect with others with shared experiences.

We hosted a number of workshops. These included parent carers, child carers, people looking after parents, partners and loved ones. Each workshop was designed to be age appropriate, inclusive, engaging and good fun.  People enjoyed participating in the design or new services and meeting people who had shared experiences.

We gathered insights and formed a group from local organisations to synthesise the insights, identify opportunities for change across the system of support and lead co-design activity that generated community-led proposals for carer support in East Renfrewshire. Working with local organisations, we developed their skills and capability in a range or service design tools and methods. 

At the end of the assignment we supported local organisations to develop community-led service specification. This was submitted to the HSCP, alongside a co-designed ‘theory of change’ to inform future commissioning of support services for carers.

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