From 2020 – early 2023, Forward Carers ran a small grants programme, as part of Birmingham Carers Hub, funded by Birmingham City Council, the Children’s Trust and Birmingham and SolihullCCG.
We funded 13 new specialist services for unpaid Carers in Birmingham to provide new support to meet the needs of Carers experiencing particular situations, from young Carers, to Carers supporting someone with a mental health condition and people who care for someone living with dementia. You can see the whole range of projects here, Carer Services – Birmingham Carers Hub
In this series of three blogs, we delve into the purpose, activities and impact of three of projects we funded – Oscar Birmingham, Aquarius and Barefoot Birmingham. The information and quotes are taken from an independent evaluation by the Birmingham Voluntary Service Council (BVSC) who spoke to many Carers to learn about their experiences and the impact of the support they received.
Carers who shared their experiences as part of the evaluation described the stress of their caring role, and the huge burden it was for them. They were on duty 24/7, with no rest or time for themselves which felt exhausting and relentless. They had given up their ‘previous life’ and had little time for their own aspirations. They described a lack of support from statutory services, and that they were too busy to look for other support. They felt that it was not easy to find information about what was available for Carers. They also spoke of the enormous amount of love they had for the person they cared for. These services were designed to support and give back to Carers – when you’re the person people rely on, you need someone you can lean on too.
You can read about the impact of Aquarius on the lives of Carers and their families below:
Who is Aquarius?
Aquarius provides support and services for adults and young people who use substances or gamble and provide a family service that for those affected by someone else’s addiction.
What was the purpose of the new project?
The Forward Carers grant has given Aquarius more ways to support those receiving their help, by supporting their wider families too through emotional and counselling support that helps families to develop coping strategies and improve self-care. When family members of someone with a substance misuse issue are overlooked and not included in the support offered, it can impact the recovery of those that are using substances and make it harder to keep the family unit together. This integrated model, where Carers and other family members are just as important as the person receiving support, is crucial to maintaining the family network.
Aquarius says, “If we can get just one family Carer working better, supporting better in that situation, it has a knock-on effect with the rest of the family, including the person who’s drinking or using drugs. So you’ve got one person functioning better and the ripple effect is massive. So that’s our objective.”
How did Carers describe the impact of the support they received?
After regular talks with [the counsellor], I stopped beating myself up, otherwise I would have been really ill. It’s been one of the most amazing experiences ever”.
“When I found [Aquarius counselling service], the weight off my shoulders, I can’t even describe the help it’s been. That phone call once a week is almost like a beacon of light in my week which I know I can offload, listen, talk to, cry – all those things. I was withdrawing from people, I couldn’t talk to them, I didn’t want to burden people, so in the end you just shut up, don’t say anything and put a smile on. I was worried something might happen to me, it was a pressure cooker I could feel it building up. I don’t feel that now, that pressure has released off me”.
I don’t feel I need to cry anymore, at the point of ‘can’t cope’ – I’m not alone anymore on this journey”.
Another participant said that having accessed the support – “I’m not suicidal anymore”.
One Carer felt that their counselling sessions had “saved my career, being able to work things out with her has given me space not to have to think about it in working time”.
I’m desperate to meet other grandparents and talk to others about how you feel because they feel the same. There’s no one better than someone going through your journey. …It’s important to have this, it’s an actual lifeline”.
Another participant said that she feels as though her life has opened up again. “I talk to parents at the school gates. I hold my head up and talk to neighbours, I’m not hiding away anymore. I’m going out more, going to see friends. I’m enjoying walking around the shops, singing along to the radio again. I feel lighter, not feeling heavy or burdened. I’ve got hope now, I could see the sadness in my eyes. That’s the difference it’s made for me. It’s been hard and devastating but because I’ve got support and he (her son)’s got support the rainbow will be a lot brighter than it ever was before.”
We’re so thrilled to know of the huge impact this service has had on the lives of Carers and families affected by alcohol, drugs or gambling issues.
This project has now come to an end but Aquarius continue to provide a wide range of support. If you would like to find out more about the range of support available from Aquarius call 0121 622 7780 or visit https://aquarius.org.uk/