Over 150 of Bedfordshire’s unpaid family carers from across Bedfordshire gathered together in the Rufus Centre, Flitwick, on Friday 17th November, to attend the first Bedfordshire Carers Conference.
The conference was organised in partnership with East London Foundation Trust (ELFT), and had the theme of Carer Resilience and Wellbeing. The conference was timed to be close to Carers Rights Day, held this year on 24th November, a national day that brings organisations across the UK together to help carers know their rights and find out how to get the help and support they are entitled to.
In the morning, carers heard keynote speakers, Emily Holzhausen OBE, Director of Policy and Public Affairs, Carers UK, share the national picture around carer wellbeing and the implications for policy. Dr Schoeman, Consultant Psychiatrist, Older People, ELFT, talked about the key role carers play supporting individuals with dementia in a talk entitled “Thank Heavens for Carers”.
Four carers shared their personal stories
Four local carers shared moving testimonies about their caring, and talked about the support and activities which have helped them maintain wellbeing and resilience. Conference attendees took the opportunity to try out a range of wellbeing activities including mindfulness, massage, art, Bollystep, a smoothie bike and Laughter Yoga. The Carers UK Digital Platform, available through a partnership between Carers UK and Bedford Borough Council, was available for guests to try.
In the afternoon, carers participated in a workshop on Information and Advice for carers. Ros Harding of Bedford Borough Council, and Jane Leek of Central Bedfordshire Council, spoke about the local authorities’ perspective, before a wide ranging discussion on topics as diverse as information carers are given by GPs, and digitisation.
Local organisations working in partnership
In the spirit of Carers Rights Day, the conference saw local organisations working together to support carers. Michelle Bradley, ELFT’s Director of Mental Health and Wellbeing Services for Bedfordshire, who co-opened the conference with Carers in Bedfordshire’s CEO, Helen Satterthwaite, highlighted the importance of partnership, “ELFT are committed to developing local partnerships and we are delighted to be working with Carers in Bedfordshire to enhance the great support that they provide to so many carers, who are integral to the care and support that ELFT and many other organisations provide locally.” Information for carers was available from The Disability Resource Centre’s Advice Central service, Beds Rural Communities Charity (BRCC), Carers in Bedfordshire, East London Foundation Trust (ELFT), Healthwatch, Mind BLMK, POhWER, Tibbs Dementia Foundation, the Alzheimer’s Society, Age UK and Bedfordshire Libraries.
Farewell to Carers in Bedfordshire’s Chair – 26 years caring and 13 as a Board member
The end of the conference saw Anne Grant, of Renhold, stand down as Chair of Carers in Bedfordshire. Anne became a carer 26 years ago when her husband suffered a brainstem stroke leaving him tetraplegic without speech. She joined Carers in Bedfordshire as a Board member in 2004, shortly after the charity was formed by Yvonne Clark.
Tributes to Anne’s contribution to the charity were led by the Rt Hon. Alistair Burt MP, President of Carers in Bedfordshire. Anne received gifts and a Memory Book of photos and memories from staff, Board members and volunteers.
Anne said, “When I started caring for my husband 25 years ago, I had to find out everything myself, so to see how this charity has developed to give such amazing support to now over 8,000 carers, is wonderful. The incredible response of carers to this conference illustrates the enormous need for information, advice and support. Our biggest challenge remains reaching all those carers who don’t recognise themselves with that label. I am so grateful to Carers in Bedfordshire for the support they have given me and also the opportunity to have been involved in its growth over the last 13 years.”