Making Space for Carers
Making Space For Carers
The Making Space for Carers programme was set up to offer a space for individuals who share a common condition or circumstance, in this case being family carers. These types of groups were focused on providing mentoring, emotional and social support, information, education, and practical help to each other. The programme which was part of Ageing Better in Birmingham and funded by Big Lottery Fund came to an end in February 2020.
As part of the work we set up spaces across the city in a mixture of settings from GP practices, businesses, and community centres. The spaces offered a safe setting where many people came along to not only benefit from peer to peer support but for many it was the first time, they had considered themselves as Carers.
The Making Space programme supported over 1000 carers at 197 spaces during the 2-year period and received many positive feedback. As a result, we have now launched Birmingham Carers Hub affiliated groups, giving Carers more opportunity to find and develop a network of support in their local area. We will be developing spaces in each of the 10 wards across the city. You will find more information about these spaces in our event calendar.
Covid-19 – In light of the current situation, we are currently not holding any face to face group activity, however we have recently launched our virtual spaces – Carers Zoom at Noon.
If you are interested in starting your own group see below for guidance.
How? (To start your own group)
To begin with you will need to find a suitable venue to host your space, it is always worth asking at your local community centre, place of worship, GP or even at your place of work, you don’t need a lot of space depending on how you want to run your group. At its simplest, you just need a quiet area where people can come together and have a chat. As your space grows so may your needs, for example if you want to invite some guest speakers you will probably need a quieter space where you won’t be disturbed. Some things to consider when selecting a venue are:
- Location – Can people easily get to you? If there a local bus route or car park?
- Is it accessible? Is it wheelchair friendly and are there disabled facilities?
- Is there somewhere you can make hot drinks?
- Is it a warm, welcoming and friendly space that is easy to invite people in?
- What is the price? Can you afford it; you may be able to get funding however what happens when the funding runs out?
- How much money will you need to run a space?
You will need to explore what is an ideal time and day to hold your group, this may depend on the venue and their availability, you will also need to decide on how frequently you wish to meet.
Marketing/advertising your new space can be a challenge but this is key to ensuring that people turn up. Having a great venue and ideas but no attendees can be disheartening. Take advantage of your own social networks and ask everyone you know to tell their friends, ask your local GP practice to let you pin a poster in the waiting area, local shops will often allow you to advertise in the window. Social media can be a great and effective way of letting people know what is happening. If you are uncomfortable about using this medium, don’t be, once you have started you will quickly learn how beneficial social media can be, not only for promotion of your own group but for finding out what else is happening in your local community. We have developed more in-depth guidance on how best to use this platform and is available along with other toolkits on our website. We have enclosed some templates of posters (Click Here) you can use as a starting point, you will be able to print these and write directly onto them to advertise your space. If you don’t have a printer, you will find that most libraries have a printer that members can use for a small cost. Ensure the information you are sharing is accurate and relevant, let people know the day, time and location; whether the sessions will be held weekly or monthly, and most importantly what they can expect. For example, if you are asking for a donation or charge for refreshments, let people know in advance so they can bring cash when they attend. If you are in a room within a building; let them know where to go so they don’t get lost. Make this poster as inviting as possible so people want to come along. It is useful to let people know how they can contact you. Once you have completed your poster, start advertising it by taking advantage of relevant free posting websites such as www.forwardcarers.org.uk/events or www.ageingbetterinbirmingham.co.uk/events. These two sites will then share your group on their own social media platforms – meaning you will reach more people. Get in touch with your local Neighbourhood Network Scheme (NNS) who will be able to also advertise the group.
Resources are vital to any successful and sustainable group/space. Your members will want to relax and have a hot drink if possible. A safe and accessible space is important, so in this section we will recap and cover any resources needed to start and run your space.
- Location – it is important to find a welcoming and accessible space, that is easy to find. Consider how people will get to and access the building-– is it on a bus route? Can you park? Is the room upstairs and can those with less mobility access the space?
- Space – Having enough room in something to consider, you want to be able to welcome people who can freely walk around the space. If you are using a café setting, then you want to be able to have enough space that you don’t feel cramped and restricted but not to big you feel lost in the room. Try to choose a place that isn’t too noisy.
The room set up should be relaxed with an opportunity to sit and talk, a circle or sitting around a table helps to ensure that everyone is involved rather than people segregating to smaller groups – this also prevents cliques forming which can be off putting for new and existing people.
- People – Having a good network of people around you will assist you in getting your space up and running, this may take the form of extra people to help you welcome newcomers to the first sessions, people to help with refreshments or people who can provide interesting / relevant talks. Meet with your local community leaders or those already involved in running activities in your local area. If you are involved in any organisations that support you in your caring role – it will be worth talking to them about what support they can provide such as whether they can come in and give talks or ongoing support for your space.
- Materials – Depending on how you want your space to work, you may want to have pens and paper available; this is useful for taking any notes or suggestions from the group. You will need to market/advertise your space so you will need to create and print posters or flyers and ensure these are displayed within the local area.
- Budget – This is a consideration to think about prior to starting your own space, how much will it cost to run your space and how will you fund this? Options will be to have a standing donation/cost towards refreshments and room hire, but then what happens if you want to plan any activities? This added cost should be taken into consideration at the very start of the process and reviewed regularly, there are lots of different pots of funding available and fundraising opportunities and we will go through how to apply for those in more detail later in this toolkit. Don’t be afraid to make the costs clear to your members, if you get them on board early on then when it comes to fundraising you will have plenty of support.
- IT – this isn’t a must, however should be considered if your inviting guest speakers to deliver workshops or presentations – they may need access to a projector, speak to your venue and find out what equipment they have available and if you will be able to use it when needed. When you are setting up the group (and potentially throughout the duration), you will need to have online access. Social media is a great way of marketing and attracting new members to join you and you may want to consider how the group may want to communicate outside the group – using methods such as WhatsApp, a free phone app, is an easy way to maintain connection and contact with your group.
Once you have started to think about the planning stages of running a group, you need to start to consider what roles people will play. We suggest that you run your group as an un-constituted group, meaning you won’t require a Chairperson, Secretary or Treasurer, but it is advised to have a small group of people who can informally or formally support you in the running and organisation of the group. Try to recruit your team at the start of your planning stage, if you have friends who wish to come on board ensure you have the commitment to support the group and they understand the purpose of the space. Make sure they are clear about their role and their time commitment. It is recommended that you have a lead volunteer – the person running the space, this may be you; this will be the person doing most of the organising from ensuring the venue is booked to double checking any requirements, such as agendas, guest speakers, they will work closely with the other volunteers to ensure a strong network of support is around them. You may also need someone who can help set up the venue before, and clear up after, your groups, so that your members can come and settle in as quickly as possible. If you are running more formal groups you may wish to consider having someone taking notes and turning these into more formal documents that may be sent out to your members. All the way through this process, you will need to rely on your team of volunteers and members to come together and support your groups aims moving forward. Do-it.org is a great resource to use to promote volunteer roles or www.meetup.com to both ask for members and extra support such as volunteers.
Prepare yourself for the first meeting. Arrive early and have a rough idea or agenda on how you would like the meeting to run. Ensure everybody who arrives is welcomed everyone to the group. If you are busy try to encourage others to get involved, maybe think about having someone on the main door so they can direct people to the correct area. For some people attending, this may be the first group/space they have attended and they will be nervous about walking in alone. Introduce yourself and if everyone is new, think about a fun icebreaker, (examples enclosed) this will help others to start talking. Make sure you start with asking people to introduce themselves. In your first meeting, you should discuss boundaries or group rules; use the group to do this, everyone needs to be involved in this process to ensure the group stays fluid and not a rigid rule setting space. Things to consider:
- Respecting each other – allowing people to share in a safe environment is paramount to ensuring a successful group
- Consider what the focus of the group is with the input of the group
- Think about how you may address any problems within the group
- Ask others for ideas – use post it notes and then stick these on the wall for others to give feedback
- Review your group regularly to ensure you are still fit for purpose and people are still attending.
You will also want to start thinking about how you want to actually run your group, do you want to have an agenda or just come together for a chat. A group could also evolve into more social activities, such as a walking group, trips to the cinema or even planning your next group holiday. Try and ensure everyone has a voice in how and what they would like to see the space moving forward which will help build connections and friendship, people need to feel valued and heard, of course some ideas are not always practical however you just never know what someone can bring to the table. Keep your focus on the purpose of the group and consider writing Terms of Reference* (TOR) to define the purpose and structures of the group who have agreed to work together to accomplish the shared goal – reducing isolation and giving value and purpose to older carers. *See resource pack for template of TOR. One issue to consider is that other responsibilities, such as your caring role, may sometimes prevent you from organising the group or even attending. Therefore, it is important to try and explore who else can come on board to support you. It is important to get the support in place as quickly as possible.
Now you have been running for a few weeks it’s time to start to think how to make your group sustainable in the long-term. Below is a useful diagram called the 3 Pillars of Success to help you start thinking about what steps you may need to put into place to help ensure you are able to continue your space. It needn’t be scary, try to focus on just 3 easy stages to help ensure the success of your group moving forward. With the 3 Pillars of Success diagram, it helps you understand that all 3 areas need to be considered and this is turn helps to ensure the space is sustainable, a space can run with 2 of these areas but a truly successful group needs all three to be in place. Social: this is literally getting people through the door, how are you promoting the group/activity? What do you have on offer to gain peoples interest, we mentioned briefly about having guest speakers, fun activities or ensuring the social engagement continues outside the group by meeting for lunch, or using virtual platforms such as Facebook or What’s App groups. Another important area to think about is what are the reasons and/or benefits to someone attending your group. Take lots of photos of your time together and events and look for someone with a hidden skill to write a fabulous article (case study) on how much everyone enjoys coming along and how they have improved their health and wellbeing, and reduced isolation. Environment: Are you getting interest from people potentially interesting in joining your group but getting no one, or very few people, through your door? You need to consider if your location / venue is easy to get to and find via public transport or car (is there a carpark?) you also need to think about the time and day your group takes place. Make sure you ask potential attendees or friends and family if there’s anything that would stop them using a venue you have in mind, before you book your first group. If you did all this and it still isn’t working, we can help you find an alternative. We can support you in locating more suitable venues/spaces however you will need to consider any negatives or positives in doing this. Economic: One of the main stumbling that can cause a group to stop is down to limited resources, and the costs associated with renting your space, advertising your group and making sure you have enough tea and coffee to entice people in. Consider using the expertise of your members, someone may have great creative skills and can produce a monthly newsletter you can circulate to help spread awareness of your group and activities you take part in. Are you providing refreshments? Have a minimum charge in place, even if it’s 50p a session, it will help to cover some of your outgoings. Start thinking about fundraising activities, use your contacts to organise a stall or attend a car boot sale. If your group is full of activities, don’t be afraid to have a standing charge to cover the costs, you will find most people will be happy to pay, however be respectful of those who may struggle to make any payments due to financial restraints and maybe offer a reduced rate. Running a group doesn’t have to be expensive, you can ask for free room hire from venues or even just meet in a local coffee shop, however there are lots of different funding opportunities you may be able to access to help you get started, for instance the Ageing Better Fund is great place to start, the fund can help pay for expenses between £50 and £2,000. It is not a grant – they pay directly for goods and services and administer all the payments needed to help you start your new activity. You can get in touch directly with the team on 0333 006 9711 or email firstname.lastname@example.org When applying and writing bids it is useful to do the following
- Read and follow the criteria – depending on the funding you are applying for, they will have a strict criteria that you need to ensure you demonstrate how the money funded to you will hit those needs, for example Ageing Better Fund is a pot of money up to £2000 to be used for start-up costs associated with running a group, however the main aim of this funding is to reduce isolation and loneliness for people aged 50 and over and you should ensure your bid highlights how your space will enable social connections will be improved, you also however need to demonstrate how you will be sustainable after this. This is also paid via invoices for expenses you may have occurred and not in a lump sum.
- Don’t duplicate – is there another similar space in your area or even in your venue? Funders will only consider you if you are able to demonstrate the real offer and value you are giving to your local community.
- Think outside the box – don’t be afraid to consider something different, if you want your space to be more active and unique then as long as you can demonstrate the impact then go for it. Funders want to see people offering something different to ensure those directly affected are going to continue to benefit.
- Do your research –What does your funder want to see, what are the outcomes they will fund for and how will you meet this?
- Be clear in your vision – don’t get carry away with too much jargon, be clear in what you are hoping to achieve – do bullet points if this easier to ensure you hit all the points required.
Our 10 tops tips to ensure your space is not only a successful but you are able to have fun achieving that.
- Encourage members to support each other.
- Allow everyone to have a voice.
- Remind the members of the ground rules – These will have been set at the very start of running your space, however it is wise to regularly review them and then circulate across your members to ensure they are aware of the rules.
- Encourage contact outside the Space – perhaps set up a buddy system.
- Keep advertising – you may find you have enough members however this can stagnate the group, members may leave and not be replaced; the group will then be unable to sustain itself.
- Be creative – think outside the box, invite speakers or have activities.
- Keep it light, the purpose is to reduce isolation and loneliness and although you are all facing difficult situations and having the opportunity to off load and to share that is important, it is as equally important to keep it light and relaxed enabling friendships and connections rather than a heavy support group.
- Deal with conflict quickly – if someone attending is constantly causing conflict or upsetting the other members, don’t be afraid to speak to the member and establish if there are any issues that are causing problems and signpost them to the relevant support such as Birmingham Carers Hub on 0333 006 9711. However, if they continue to unsettle the group – ask them to leave.
- Ask for feedback and suggestions – involve your members as they then develop a vested interest in helping ensure the space to grow and develop.
- Don’t put too much pressure on yourself – a typical space runs with between 5 – 15 people, any more than that can become unmanageable. Remember again your aims, even having one person will have a huge impact on the connection you and that person has.
Finally, sit back, relax and join in – you have successfully managed to start a group, congratulations! Remember this is just as important for you to make friends and new connections.