Caring for the carers is the philosophy of an extremely active group in Selsey – and its members want to reach out to help more of the ‘hidden carers’ who can often become isolated and have their dedicated efforts overlooked.
The Selsey and District Carers Support Group was set up in August 2000. Janet Harris MBE, the recently-deceased founder, started the group in her home, initially because she found herself so isolated when her husband became ill.
As she explained: “I discovered, like most fulltime carers, how incredibly lonely, exhausting, frightening, frustrating and thankless the situation can become with no support, help or advice for either my husband or myself.
“I did not choose to become a full-time carer; it happened overnight and out of necessity.”
Essentially, the need for a local independent charity to support unpaid carers in their daily lives, providing information, signposting, respite outings and a listening ear, was quickly proven, but as it grew and demand for its services increased, it was necessary to find a small office and employ a part-time admin officer.
And after a few years the trustees realised it was time for another, bolder move to larger premises to accommodate the increasing number of members.
Opening the Information and Support Centre for Carers in March 2009 was a huge leap for the charity, not only from a financial point of view – rent, rates, utilities and other costs – but also because it involved the commitment of so many more people. However, the team of 20 volunteers and nine trustees have been stalwart in their support, enabled the group to become much more visible and, more importantly, accessible to the carers in their community.
Since the centre opened, more than 100 new carer members have joined, yet the group knows there are many more ‘hidden’ carers out there who could benefit from support.
Carers are invited to drop in to the centre for friendly support and advice on caring matters. Volunteers will help them with finding appropriate information and contacts and completing benefit claim forms, as well as offering support and a cup of tea when carers find things are getting on top of them.
“No-one plans to become an unpaid carer,” says chairman Jill Studley. “It can happen very suddenly, after a loved one suffers a stroke or an accident or it can happen gradually, with the loved one deteriorating slowly but surely.
“Often carers become so involved in the day-to-day struggle that they become lonely, isolated and depressed. This is where a charity like the Selsey and District Carers Support Group comes in.
“We offer a shoulder to cry on and practical advice and information, as well as respite in the form of outings and events.”