Friday 22 June 2012

Carers Week

It's Carers Week so very apt that the need for more specialist services for carers of people with a serious mental illness was one of the talking points at today’s Movin' On Up event in Ammanford, Carmarthenshire.

Christine Williams, whose 31-year-old son was recently diagnosed with schizophrenia, tells us: "I welcome the Carers Strategies (Wales) Measure but when you get down to it, all that law does is make the NHS and local authorities come up with a strategy for providing carers with information.

"This is OK but what’s far more important is the quality of support we get. We want comprehensive assessments backed up by service delivery. It’s no good giving us generic services, what we need are specialist services. A lot of carers services are designed for people who care for those who care for the physically disabled or children."

Wise words. The Carers Measure places very limited duties on the NHS and Councils - the strategies they are required to produce don't need to spell out the services they are going to provide, just how they are going to provide information and involve carers in decisions. All very well but it is, as Christine says, the services which matter most. Nevertheless we must ensure that the needs of mental health carers are explicitly covered in the strategies.

Our campaign is run by service users and carers and supported by mental health charities Hafal, Bipolar UK and the Mental Health Foundation. 22 weekly county events are taking place and the campaign will culminate in a climb of Wales’ highest peak, Snowdon, in September. The campaign will also feature an interactive stand at the Royal Welsh Show and, on World Mental Health Day, at the National Assembly.

A reminder of the campaign's key activities...

Service users and their families will:

• Engage in the development and implementation of the new Mental Health Strategy ensuring that it is recovery-focused, empowers service users and their families, and supports the Mental Health Measure by prescribing the services which individual Care and Treatment Plans demand.

• Take full advantage of the Mental Health Measure which promotes holistic care and treatment planning. The campaign will see service users taking the lead in negotiating robust Care and Treatment Plans which address all areas of life. Service users and their carers will challenge mental health and other services to deliver on the new law by acting on the Care and Treatment Plans in collaboration with their clients. They will also challenge the Welsh Government, NHS and local authorities to ensure that resources for mental health and other services are focused on meeting needs identified in the Care and Treatment Plans.

• Ensure that the families and carers of people with a serious mental illness are able to exercise their rights under the new Carers’ Measure and Mental Health Measure so that they can support the people they care for on their path to recovery – and achieve a better life themselves.

• Promote the take-up of other opportunities provided by the new Mental Health Measure for improved primary care services (including mental health assessments, short-term interventions and onward referral to secondary services), for an expanded scheme of independent mental health advocacy for all in-patients, and for improved and faster re-access rights for those who have been discharged from secondary services.