'Carers Together' - a welcome new initiative to link family carers
Updated: Jan 28
A fresh source of support for carers – Carers Together launches this month (January 2021), aiming to bring informal carers together for support and encouragement, through weekly online meetings.
How it came to be...
Julia Burton-Jones, national church lead for Anna Chaplaincy, first worked on a project to raise awareness in churches of the needs of family carers in the late 1980s. Action for Family Carers was an initiative of Christian Thinktank The Jubilee Centre in Cambridge, where Julia worked as a recent social policy graduate.
A training video entitled ‘Out of Sight, Out of Mind’ aimed to spark a conversation in local churches about the role they fulfil in supporting those who care for a friend or family member. ‘Serving Carers: A handbook for you and your church’ gave ideas and shared best practice for supporting carers. For several years Julia organised workshops for churches and carers organisations across the country, under the umbrella of Scripture Union Training Unit.
It was during this time that Julia met Chris and Brenda Baalham. Chris had been Brenda’s full-time carer from early in their marriage, and she wanted to highlight the role of carers. She wrote a book called One in a Million: Coping with caring, which was published by The Lutterworth Press in 1991. Julia, Brenda and Chris worked together to establish national support network The Carers Christian Fellowship (CCF), with help from The Disabled Christians Fellowship. In 1994 CCF was registered as a charity. It continued to link carers with one another through a newsletter, prayer group and retreats for the next 25 years, finally closing in 2019.
Amazingly, soon after CCF finished, Tina English from charity Embracing Age and Care Home Friends felt that God had laid on her heart the needs of Christians caring for friends and family members. During the pandemic she was aware of how isolated carers were, with support groups and respite provision suspended. With a small grant, Tina established a project entitled Carers Together.
What it offers...
From this month Carers Together aims to bring informal carers together for support and encouragement, through weekly Zoom meetings. This is a pilot project running from January to March 2021, so that carers can shape the format and content of get togethers. Each Thursday at 3.00 pm Carers Together invites carers to join a Zoom gathering, giving opportunity to chat with two or three other carers in breakout rooms. On the first Thursday of every month there will be a guest speaker on a relevant topic, followed by discussion in small groups.
Charlotte Overton-Hart, keynote speaker at the Anna Chaplaincy virtual Gathering in October 2020, is working on the project. Her role is to work with carers to co-produce new guidance for churches on supporting carers. Anna Chaplaincy will support Tina and Charlotte in the development of this exciting initiative; supporting family carers is a crucial element of Anna Chaplaincy and we would like to think that our Network will be active in signposting Carers Together.
Julia said, 'It is wonderful to see this new initiative picking up the role fulfilled for a quarter of a century by The Carers Christian Fellowship. My prayer is that it will provide a safe and supportive forum for carers to share their experiences and find friendship and fellowship.'
For more information about Carers Together, call Tina on 020 3778 0035 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.