Falkirk & District Association for Mental Health Carers Support and Development Project

Time for Me: a report on research into respite by people who care for those with mental health problems 2005

The Group
The Association's Carers Support and Development Project aims to ensure that informal carers of people with mental health problems (i.e. friends and family members) have access to information, education and mutual support, and to involve carers in planning local mental health services.

What were they trying to achieve?
The aims of the research were to:

  • Identify how those who care define respite
  • Identify what is currently available to them
  • Gather ideas on how it could be improved
  • Identify what would assist carers in their caring role
  • Investigate whether planned breaks could help avoid crisis situations and help carers look after their own health

The background to this was the introduction of new carers' rights by the Community Care and Health (Scotland) Act 2002. Another factor affecting carers of people with mental health problems currently is national and local mental health services redesign, which means a shift towards more treatment in the community, along with the implementation of the Mental Health (Care and Treatment)(Scotland) Act 2003.

How did they go about it?
A group of 12 co-researchers was formed from carers in contact with the Project.  They carried out 16 interviews with other carers; three carers wrote their own case studies; and 25 questionnaires were completed at an event organised for carers not in contact with the Project.

What did they learn?
The main conclusions from the research were that:

  • Caring is often a full-time job and interferes with the ability to maintain employment
  • Almost all carers said caring affected their health, mainly causing stress-related problems
  • Carers understand the term 'respite' but many carers are not aware of services that provide breaks and few use such services
  • Carers want a range of respite opportunities, ranging from day services to holidays
  • Most carers believed respite should be funded or subsidised by government

What difference did it make?
There was a launch of the report in October 2005, attended by carers and professionals.  Presentation have been given to the following groups:

  • Falkirk Mental Health Framework Implementation Group
  • Carers Consultative Forum
  • Clackmannanshire Community Health Partnership Management Team
  • Falkirk Community Health Partnership Management Team
  • Community Mental Health Team
  • Short Breaks Bureau
  • Forth Valley Mental Health Strategic Implementation Group
  • Carers Research Group in Alloa

Presentations are planned for the following groups:

  • Integrated Mental Health Teams
  • Senior House Officers
  • Intensive Home Treatment Team
  • Crisis/Out of hours 'Time Out' Team
  • Community Care Teams
  • Princess Royal Trust for Carers Centre, Falkirk

A focus group was held to identify in more detail what improvements meant health carers would like to see with regard to respite.

The co-researchers, along with representatives from the local Princess Royal Trust for Carers Centre, the Short Breaks Bureau, FDAMH, Crossroads and the Integrated Community Mental Health Teams are currently working on a proposal for a pilot short breaks 'sitter' service, specifically aimed at mental health carers.  It is proposed that this would be a joint venture between the local Crossroads service and FDAMH.

Hilary Allen
Carers Support and Development Worker
Falkirk & District Association for Mental Health
1 Paterson Tower
Seaton Place
Tel:  01324 636220
Email:  h.allen.fdamh@btconnect.com