On 29th April we worked with West Sussex County Council, local NHS, and partners to welcome more than 150 West Sussex unpaid family and friend carers, and health professionals, to the One Big Day event at Fontwell Park.
The event was developed by carers, for carers and focused on them being seen, heard, included, and supported in a world where finances are a challenge and systems, and services are stretched to the max.
Carers started the day hearing a Q&A session between Carers Support West Sussex CEO Sonia Mangan, and Kate Mosse OBE, novelist, non-fiction and short story writer and broadcaster; West Sussex resident; carer; author of ‘An Extra Pair of Hands – a story of caring & everyday acts of love’ – in which Kate talked about her personal experience of being a carer, the impact of the pandemic on carers, and shared some anecdotes (including when her Granny Rosie appeared on TV) that everyone in the room could relate to. Watch and listen here.
We were also joined by a number of keynote speakers:
Dame Philippa Russell DBE - a long-term family carer for her adult son with learning disabilities and brain damage, and for her husband who died at the start of the pandemic after many years of living with Lewy Body dementia, cancer, and heart failure. She is Vice-President of Carers UK and a Board member of TLAP and SEEFA (the Southeast Forum on Ageing) and was Chair of the Government’s Standing Commission on Carers and a member of the Carers Action Plan Advisory Group.
Emily Holzhausen OBE - Director of Policy and Public Affairs for Carers UK, and leads on policy, parliamentary, research and media work. She has worked on numerous pieces of legislation, campaigning for and securing carers’ rights as well as protecting them. She leads Carers Week, one of the UK’s biggest awareness weeks involving thousands of local events.
Dr. Neil Churchill OBE - Director for Experience, Participation and Equalities at NHS England and NHS Improvement, having joined the NHS after a 25-year career in the voluntary sector. Major initiatives include NHS Commitments to Carers and volunteering in the NHS.
Jane Green MA Ed exAHT - a professional educationalist lead for autism, championing health, education, social care, employment, transport issues in Ehlers-Danlos. She offers advice as a longstanding carer, and adviser as advocate nationally on health and social care.
There were also helpful sessions by experts in caring-related legal matters, and Carer benefits from:
Amanda Attrell - a member of Bennett Griffin’s Care, Capacity and Court of Protection Team. She has a passion for helping individuals, their families, and carers to navigate the legal care sector.
Martin Yarde - the Carers Support West Sussex Benefits Advisor, having previously worked for Citizens Advice. Carers Voice Network.
"Lovely to talk to other carers and hear the excellent speakers."
As well as the professional speakers we also heard from the Carers Voice Network, a group of carers sharing their experiences to help improve our service. Visit our YouTube channel to hear carer Maz about what has been helpful along her journey as an unpaid family carer in West Sussex.
As well as the interesting speakers, we also offered some fantastic ‘me time’ sessions for carers
In the Wellbeing Zone - Carers enjoyed reiki, satin hand moisturising, reflexology and mini-gel manicure, and an introduction to mindfulness.
In the Activity Zone – Carers enjoyed mini terracotta plant pot painting, making lavender bags and mindful colouring.
"The wellbeing sessions were great. Never thought I would fill a lavender bag or paint a pot.
It was a great day."
In the Young Carer Zone – our under 18-years old Carers enjoyed a dance and a film-making workshop.
We were also pleased to present five short animated films previously made by the young carers. Chichester Festival Theatre and West Sussex Young Carers Family Service worked together during lockdown in 2020 to supply young carers most in need with laptops and internet connection due to an incredible fundraising effort by the theatre.
Those Young Carers who benefited from this were invited to join a special Young Carers Connect online project in 2020/21 where they were able to meet online and explore creatively what it means to be a young carer and the importance of being connected.
As part of this project Young Carers ranging from 6 to 14 in age were able to work with animation students at Chichester College and Chewboy Productions to make amazing videos which are a fun and powerful way of communicating their experiences of caring and the value of getting support. You can watch the videos here.
West Sussex Young Carers Family Service provides a range of help to Young Carers under the age of 18 to ensure that they are valued in their role and the impact of caring is supported and addressed. For further information contact firstname.lastname@example.org
"The event was an absolutely wonderful time during which I could forget about my caring role back home!! Thank you!! When is the next event?!"
Sonia Mangan, CEO Carers Support West Sussex said:
I am always humbled by the breadth of carers experiences and their willingness to share what works and what doesn’t with decision makers and each other. One BIG Day was just one of the many ways that we, our partners from across West Sussex, NHS Sussex, and West Sussex County Council that we can offer carers to be together. The day was full of honesty which at times made us sad but also full of hope and celebration at being able together again. We always learn from each other and make a difference, but it was wonderful to physically stand together in solidarity.
Mark Greening, Carers Lead Commissioner from West Sussex County Council said:
At the event I did have a chance to meet a number of carers and they were all full of praise, not only for a great day but also for all the opportunities to reconnect with other carers again. To hear and see the group of young carers enjoying their workshops was a particular delight.
Now there is a lot of work ahead to further the aims of the West Sussex Joint Commitment to Carers. To be a county which fully recognises, values and supports the role carers, of all ages play.
Some carer numbers:
- There are 371,000 households in West Sussex and over 800,000 people
- Carers UK estimate that 3 out 5 adults will become unpaid family and friend carers at some point in their lives. That means that there are more than 120,000 carers in West Sussex
- Over 30,000 carers are registered with the Charity, Carers Support West Sussex
Some core objectives shared by key partners across the county, are:
- We need the remaining 91,000 carers in West Sussex to know about us, self-identify as carers, and come to us
- We need to reach more carers from ethnic minority communities
- We need more GPs, hospital workers and other health professionals to know about us and recommend and refer carers to us (they are important influencers)
- We need to provide more social support for the County’s young carers and young adult carers.
Three most common problems carers articulate to us are:
- I’d like a bit of time to myself
- I’m struggling with the costs, and with accessing the grants/funds, etc.
- I’m unwell as a result of physical and/or emotional stress and/or mental health problems of my own.
Contact details to register or refer someone in a caring role:
- Visit carerssupport.org.uk
- Email email@example.com
- Call 0300 028 8888
To refer a young (under 18) carer:
- Visit westsussex.gov.uk/youngcarers
- mail firstname.lastname@example.org
- Call 01903 270300