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 Solihull CCG.
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 Carers 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 Barefoot Wellbeing CIC on the lives of Carers and their families below:
Who is Barefoot Wellbeing CIC?
Barefoot Wellbeing is the not-for-profit arm of Barefoot yoga, an inclusive yoga studio designed to bring health, healing and flexibility to all who attend. As a Delivery Partner of Birmingham Carers Hub, they offer free yoga classes to registered Carers.
What was the project’s purpose?
Through the Carer Projects programme, Barefoot Wellbeing CIC designed a wonderful Carer Life-Spa experience where Carers could feel renewed and invigorated. They provided a tailored programme of free and paid for activities to provide the opportunity for Carers to indulge in the physical, mental and emotional nourishment necessary for a rich life outside of caring. The Life-Spa provided yoga sessions, gentle relaxation, massage, mindfulness, mindful movement and more within the Barefoot yoga studio and a range of other spaces. The Barefoot studio space in Harborne is an oasis of calm and gives Carers the chance to connect with others after the sessions, forming an informal support group with fellow Carers and yoga teachers.
The Barefoot staff and therapists are proud to offer a service focussed solely on supporting the personal wellbeing of Carers, they aim for Carers to leave the session feeling “more empowered, more confident, more compassionate to themselves and the people around them, so then they go out they can ripple that sense of wellbeing out to the wider community”.
The session leader has personal experience of being a Carer which helped her shape the sessions, she said “Coming from a place of lived experience can be really helpful with building rapport and creating connection. I’m a carer myself. I use a lot of my own lived experience to share when delivering – it comes from an authentic place so I feel like I get that connection from them because if we have a discussion, people then start to open up”.
How do yoga and spa experiences help Carers?
The caring role can be incredibly challenging. Carers often simply don’t have the time for themselves to invest in exercise or relaxation that can be key to staying fit and well. The yoga sessions and Carer Life-Spa provide the opportunity for physical movement and activity alongside the all-important opportunity to deeply connect with themselves and other Carers. Skills learnt at the Life Spa are not just for those two hours. They can use breathing visualisation at any point in their day to calm their breath or take two minutes out.
One lady had had a terrible day. She couldn’t make it to the in-person session, but she sat in a supermarket car park and joined on Zoom. She went into her own little world, half an hour of deep relaxation in the car park. She said it literally transformed her day and week. It gave her resilience and reassurance – she wasn’t alone in this carer’s words and ‘gave her strength to carry on.’
For many Carers, the Life-Spa sessions become an unmissable respite break in their month, as you can read below in the short Carer story below:
The Impact of the Carer Life-Spa, in Carers’ words
Another Carer explained the impact expands beyond the session itself and helps her successfully continue in her caring role:
“Deep breathing and counting through the breath helps to calm me and enables me to go back to sleep when I’m stressed and my brain is working overtime. It enables me to continue. Just to calm myself down. Taking some of the techniques we learn here and practicing them at home is really helpful.”
…This class is special, because you know that everybody’s here has got something or is going through something, and you can talk about it, and you can help each other and it is the most amazing experience. And we have to take care of ourselves. This allows us to say ok, this is my time. Everybody back off, go away, I’m doing me. And it’s such an important thing – it’s so important to just do you. I don’t know how I would have got from 2020-2022 without this. Wherever I am, on Zoom, wherever, I’m going to get in.”
If you are a Carer registered with Birmingham Carers Hub, contact Barefoot Wellbeing CIC for access to free yoga and wellbeing sessions at www.barefootbirmingham.com.