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"I have not come off the phone without a smile. Also knowing I can phone at any time helps as I have my own health issues"

A telephone befriending service in Perth and Kinross in partnership with the Health and Social Care Partnership is seeing positive changes in the lives of carers for the over 65’s. The service, run by Perth and Kinross Association of Voluntary Services (PKAVS) Carers Hub, is designed to help carers cope with the demands of caring in order to keep the  cared-for at home longer. When 80 cared-for people went into full-time residential care in 2017, it was found that 70% of those going into care came down to carer breakdown.

PKAVS Carers Hub, at this point, began undertaking research into the pressures of caring to find out what would help carers cope better. One to one interviews and focus groups were held with unpaid carers to identify gaps in services that would help support them in their roles. One recurrent theme was that people simply wanted someone to talk to, someone who could listen and take an impartial view of problems and challenges.

The partnership working comes to the fore in terms of funding. The HSCP at this point funded PKAVS Carers Hub to the tune of £40,000 to get the telephone befriending service off the ground. Two members of staff were then recruited to make the calls to carers.

This enabled an initial set up period during which the staff started cold calling registered carers who fell within the criteria to introduce themselves and the service. 206 carers in total accessed the service in the first 12 months with 160 carers now receiving regular calls on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, dependent on the carers needs.

Carers are clear on the benefits of the service. “The support I feel that has helped me most is the PKAVS Telephone Support as I have been able to unload myself emotionally and find that the lady who phones me once a month is a good listener and I feel good she understands my situation” said one carer.

Another states “the service and advice I receive through telephone support is outstanding. I have not come off the phone without a smile. Also knowing I can phone at any time helps as I have my own health issues.”

Partnership working continues with the HSCP in terms of joint discussions over future development of the service. There are talks over how to extend the service’s hours, growing the team and opening the service to carers of the under 65’s.

Raymond Jamieson who is in charge of the service finds the partnership invaluable, saying: “I live in a world, in the third sector, where I don’t often turn down the opportunity of more funding but I also live in the real world and I know there’s also budget constraints on statutory partners so we all need to work together to pool resources, to be as efficient as we possibly can be with the limited resources we’ve got to make sure that ultimately the people we want to support are identified and supported.”

On the overall outcomes of the telephone service and as a result of working in an integrated way, Raymond reports a positive development. “It makes us see that support plans we had in place that weren’t very old were already out of date. It also allows us the opportunity to be in regular contact with people and to intervene sooner to try and alleviate crises from happening.”

Integration has been key to the creation and success of this project which has clear impact on those it serves and seems to have a bright future.