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New Chair’s Blog – An introduction from Alan Botterill

Alan

I am pleased to send this message as the new Chair of CSWS having been elected a trustee at the AGM and elected Chair at the Board meeting on 7th December.

Firstly, on behalf of all of our carers, volunteers, staff and trustees I must record heartfelt thanks from everyone involved with CSWS to Lesley Marginson for the wonderful contribution that she made as trustee and Chair over many years since the outset of the charity. Lesley steered CSWS through some challenging times and leaves us in good shape to face the new challenges that will inevitably come our way.

I have been involved with Carers Trust for a number of years now – initially as a trustee of Crossroads Care Havering (in North London), then following its merger as a trustee and eventually the Chair of Carers Trust Epping Forest, Harlow, Havering and Redbridge. These organisations provided respite to carers, mainly on behalf of (and funded by local authorities) but also through additional clubs for young adult carers and for people living with dementia, often funded separately.

In addition I have been a mentor to CEOs of Carers Trust Network Partners and I am currently a trustee of ‘Care For The Carers’ in East Sussex. I have supported CSWS as a Strategy Advisor. Also, I am involved in some other charity activity – as a trustee of NatCen Social Research and as a trustee of the YMCA Pension Plan. I am based in London.

I expect to be in my role as Chair for around a year as I look to work with the Board to add some new trustees to increase our diversity and skills, and to identify a new permanent chair. I believe that it is important for trustees to be engaged in the local communities where the carers we support are based.

I am just getting to know people in CSWS but already I have formed a very positive impression of a hard working and dedicated team of staff and volunteers, ably supported by very capable and committed trustees. More than 60% of our staff have direct caring experience, bringing practical knowledge to helping other carers.

Carers – our hidden heroes

I think of carers as society’s hidden heroes – people who selflessly, and unpaid, care for others, often at considerable cost to their own physical and mental wellbeing, as well as in lost opportunities. Caring can be particularly challenging for child or young adult carers whose own personal development is affected. With an insufficient paid workforce to care for people living at home or in care homes, family carers are having to do more and more. Carers rarely get the recognition and support they need and deserve – they are often denied their right to a fulfilling life – but just get on with their caring as our hidden heroes.

“The caring role is becoming more complex with carers often caring for more than one person…”

Things are improving in some respects but there is a long way to go. Increased awareness and rights for carers are emerging at a time when demand for and from carers is growing. The caring role is becoming more complex with carers often caring for more than one person and having to deal with multiple long-term conditions. We need to keep emphasising the financial benefit to society that carers provide and look for more ways to help carers look after themselves properly.

We have grown our services steadily and we now have almost 19,000 carers registered with us. Each year we receive over 6,000 calls to our Carer Response Line, we make over 3,000 hospital referrals, we run over 60 support groups in more than 40 locations, we handle around 500 referrals to our counselling services and we distribute over £300,000 through the Carer Health and Wellbeing Fund. However, there are around 90,000 family and Friend Carers in West Sussex so we have much more to do to help those who are not accessing the support they need.

The year ahead

We were delighted to secure the renewal of the West Sussex County Council contract for the provision of assessment, information, guidance and support services for carers in West Sussex for the next 5 years. However, funding for West Sussex County Council is naturally tight and with demand from carers increasing, our staff are very busy and we are having to look carefully at efficiency, cost control and workload to be fair to our carers, staff and volunteers as we fully deliver on our contract.

An important focus for us going forward is fundraising to allow us to provide additional services and to invest further in our operations. This will help us reduce our reliance on statutory funding and give us flexibility to adapt and develop our services to better meet the needs of carers and to complement other services they may receive. We were pleased to have Rachael Swann join our Leadership Team in September to take the lead on funding and development. Rachael brings a wealth of experience in fundraising and has been very active winning some initial bids and helping us to understand what it will take to create a fundraising culture throughout the whole organisation. We are taking a medium to long term view in investing in fundraising and this is an important major step.

In the interim we are looking to ways to control costs and to spend our income as effectively as possible. One of our main costs, beyond staffing, is the cost of premises so we are reviewing our office locations and how best to be more visible in the community and to serve carers across the large geographic area we cover.

Our volunteer group

In times of restricted funding and the increasing demand from carers for more support and guidance our volunteers are of even greater importance. We have some 65 volunteers working in different areas, providing over 900 hours of support each month, including 35 volunteer counsellors providing emotional support to carers.

Volunteer time and work is invaluable and can be very satisfying. We will look to expand our numbers of volunteers and the opportunities we can offer.

Collaboration

A commonly expressed concern by carers and their families is that the support they receive from different agencies, including social security and the NHS, is often not effectively coordinated. This is an opportunity to be more efficient and effective for carers and to use our resources best. We shall be looking to work with other organisations where it is practical to collaborate and coordinate activities. As an example, we now have a Family and Friend Carer team working in all of the local hospitals across West Sussex. Our Wellbeing Support Workers are directly involved in multi-disciplinary teams at hospitals and through their efforts just under 50% of carer referrals from the hospital teams are managing to avoid readmission within 13 weeks of patients going home.

I do hope that you find this update helpful whether within the organisation or in one of our partner provider organisations – I am looking forward to a busy year head. We are always pleased to hear from carers and anyone involved in caring, particularly if you can help us do more for our hidden heroes.

Alan Botterill

By | 2017-12-28T10:46:24+00:00 December 28th, 2017|Blog|Comments Off on New Chair’s Blog – An introduction from Alan Botterill
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