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Collaborative event sets the stage for renewed commitment to Somerset’s unpaid carers

by | Nov 23, 2023 | Evolving Communities Consultancy, Health & Care Services

The Somerset Carers Engagement Project recently achieved a significant milestone in its mission to empower and support unpaid carers across the county when it held a major collaborative event to inform Somerset's renewed Commitment to Carers.

The Somerset Carers Engagement Project, led by Evolving Communities and Healthwatch Somerset, is working independently on behalf of Somerset’s Integrated Care Board (ICB) which includes Somerset Council and Somerset NHS. It aims to ensure the voices of unpaid carers, both adults and young carers, are heard and used to shape the direction of health and social care services in Somerset.

The Commitment to Carers is a statement that acknowledges the issues and challenges faced by unpaid carers and sets out the values and principles that health and social care services should adopt to ensure effective support for unpaid carers.

The new Commitment to Carers is being produced with carers and those who work with and support carers, and it will be formally adopted by Somerset ICB in early 2024. It will inform and influence all other strategies, commissioning decisions and service developments in the future.

Coproduction workshop

Siana Paginton shared her moving story of growing up as a young carer. She highlighted the impact this had on her wellbeing, education and career choices, and explained how social care and support, when it eventually arrived, made such a positive difference.

The recent collaborative workshop brought together over 130 different stakeholders, including unpaid carers, professionals from health and social care, and decision-makers from Somerset Council and NHS Somerset.

The event featured a diverse and engaging programme, including keynote addresses from key figures such as Councillor Heather Shearer, Associate Lead Member for Somerset Council Children’s Social Care & SEND; Jonathan Higman, Chief Executive of NHS Somerset; and Paul Coles, Service Director for Adult Social Care Commissioning in Somerset. There were insightful and moving presentations from carers and those who work to support carers, and expert presentations and discussions on various aspects of unpaid caregiving.

Highlights from the event included:

  • Facilitated conversations: Participants engaged in open and group conversations, sharing personal accounts, perspectives and visions for the future of unpaid care in Somerset.
  • Young carers focus: Special sessions were dedicated to understanding the unique needs and perspectives of young carers, ensuring their inclusion in the commitment to carers initiative.
  • Addressing challenges: Sessions explored the challenges and issues faced by parent carers, strategies for removing barriers to inclusion, and the importance of collaboration across sectors.
  • Future planning: The event concluded with a forward-looking session led by Andrew Henon, Somerset Carers Engagement Project Lead, emphasising the commitment to embedded practice, co-production, and continuous improvement.

Left to right: Alison Birkett, who read her poem, ‘Where is my man’, about caring for her husband who had dementia; Andrew Henon, Somerset Carers Engagement Project Lead; Siana Paginton, who shared her story of being a young carer; Councillor Heather Shearer, Associate Lead Member for Childrens Social Care & SEND; Gill Keniston-Goble, Healthwatch Somerset Manager; and Jonathan Higman, Chief Executive NHS Somerset.

Andrew Henon commented: “The collaborative working event marked a crucial step towards renewing our commitment to unpaid carers in Somerset. The valuable insights gained from diverse perspectives will contribute significantly to shaping the Commitment to Carers 2024, ensuring it reflects the needs and aspirations of our community. I want to thank everyone who attended on the day and helped make it such an energising and valuable event, as well as the many carers who could not join us due their caring responsibilities, but who have contributed in other ways.”

Next steps

Feedback and findings from the event will be analysed and combined with other evidence, data and reports, including insight gained by talking to carers across Somerset and case studies of unpaid carers’ experiences. The information gathered will inform the final Commitment to Carers, to be formally adopted by NHS Somerset Integrated Care Board (ICB) in early 2024.

For more information about this work, visit: Somerset Carers Engagement Project

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