Earlier this week, Leeds hosted a visit from four members of the Standing Commission on Carers. As part of the visit I took the opportunity to ask Dame Phillipa Russell (Chair), Anne Smyth (Deputy Chair), Robina Mallett (Member) and Dawn O’Rooke (Member) to share some of their thoughts about the work they do and their visit to Leeds.
Could you tell us about the role of the Standing Commission on Carers?
Dame Phillipa Russell – In 2007 the former prime minister, Gordon Brown, decided we needed a new carers strategy. What he wanted was a kind of observatory for carers to bring together different carers, professionals, local and national government. He wanted the commission to really think how we could develop a strong support system for carers that recognised the contribution they were making.
Our role is defined as providing independent advice to ministers and officials across government. The emphasis is on both being responsive to what a minster of the day may want to explore and at times to be proactive where we think there is a gap. We are trusted and seen as a safe place by government where they can share tricky issues with us in order to seek solutions.
Anne Smyth – The whole commission meets four times per year, but the bulk of our work is around fact finding visits and small group work. A common theme to any work we do is, carers know that they are listened to, valued and involved. The key message is to listen to the carers.
Can you tell us why you wanted to visit Leeds?
Dame Phillipa Russell – The reason we came to Leeds was to find out about services that support carers who are caring for somebody with a mental health condition. There is a lot interest in mental health and our visit is about finding out about interesting and innovative work. We know Leeds has always had a good reputation for supporting carers, but we are particularly interested in the work you are doing around individual budgets and personalisation for carers of people with mental health conditions. We will feedback and in turn inform the roll out of the government action plan on mental health.
Have you any thoughts you could share with us about what you have found on your visit to Leeds? Anne Smyth – We have heard a lot about building relationships and trust. What concerns us is that so many carers are hidden and we find this all the time. I think there is a good indication that you are aware in Leeds of the peripheral family and the close working with the specialist care services like Carers Leeds, is a very good way of picking up the peripheral carers who need support.
But, the single thing that captures my interest was the ‘Noticeboard’ on the Leeds Directory website. It’s person centred; listening to the person when choosing which service they want, it’s exciting.
Robina Mallett – There have been some common themes we have found today from other visits – good cooperative working, shared goals among professionals, smart about using bits of money, and using experience of a project to further the next project in a wise kind of way. I found it great that there has been talk about all the practical issues faced. It had all been thought about, that enthusiasm, just thinking can we do with this, it was great to hear.
Dawn O’Rooke – Pleased to hear about the work going on around interface issues with social care and health. We heard comments about what are still issues, what we can we do about it and this is what we should do.
Dame Phillipa Russell – A genuine sprit of coproduction, carers are not just beneficiaries but also co-contributors to the strategic thinking about how it could be done now and in the future. Also the importance of having a well-resourced, visionary and able third sector. Leeds has always supported a very diverse third sector.
Anne Smyth – At the end of the day the awareness of carers needs is very much about a culture change and carers feeling more valued, and I have think we have seen that culture change today.
We would like to thank Dame Phillipa Russell, Anne Smyth, Robina Mallett and Dawn O’Rooke for sharing with us the work they do for the Standing Commission on Carers and taking the time out to chat with us.
Les France, ASC Communications.
You can find out more information about Leeds Directory here http://www.leedsdirectory.org/
To find out about individual budgets and personalisation click here http://www.leeds.gov.uk/residents/Pages/Personal-budgets-and-self-directed-support.aspx