As we know each carer’s situation is different. This means there is not a one size fits all approach to supporting them and responses need to be individualised. Have a browse through the different support options that can be employed in different situations and find out more about support from listening to some of our staff carers.
Caring is often a hidden challenge. Staff carers often do not feel comfortable talking about their caring roles with colleagues and managers sometimes because they are emotional and sensitive subjects - in fact some staff carers say that they see work as a break from the stresses and pressures of caring and don’t want to talk about it at work - and sometimes because they are worried about being viewed differently or seeming awkward or being regarded as not able to carry out their job.
It is the role of managers and team leaders to develop a carer aware environment which is understanding of colleagues’ situations and challenges, encourages open and honest conversations and ensures that carers are supported.
People will often only take information about caring on board when it becomes relevant to them, so there needs to be continuous communication about it through different channels, including at team meetings, through emails and posters around sites. Senior figures should model the take up of carer support to show that it is not a barrier to success and no normalise the conversation around caring.
You, or someone in your team, may want to become a Carers First carer champion. As a carer champion, you will be able to access their Teams channel and keep up to date with all things liked to supporting staff carers.
Caring situations can be very fluid. They can change very suddenly or slowly over time but very rarely stay the same. For these reasons the best starting point to support staff carers is to start a conversation with them using a carer passport.
A staff carer passport is a document that should be completed by the member of staff and their line manager. It is a tool for opening and facilitating discussions about the caring role, the impacts it may be having on their work and the support that can be put in place to help them. It should be seen as a working document that can be returned as situations change.
We know our staff carers often feel isolated and misunderstood, the hope is that regular honest conversations in a safe space will help overcome this. It's really important that these conversations do feel safe and that the member of staff feels really able to be open and honest. Ideally these discussions should be regular stand alone meetings that have enough time and space allocated to them. Discussions can be sensitive and emotional so it’s important to think about the best time to have them (e.g. the end of a working day is often more preferable than the beginning where possible). It’s vital that staff carers feel listened to and heard, so using open questions and listening carefully to responses is very important.
Here is a link to the Carer passport system document.
We know that caring situations are changeable and sometimes, staff carers reach a crisis point, where they are no longer able to manage as they previously had been. In these cases, it is a good idea to consider flexible working options.
These need to be explored sensitively with HR and of course with a view to what works for the service as well as for the individual member of staff.
Approaching flexible working conversations with an attitude of ‘What can we do to help’ rather than ‘What can’t we do’ will always produce the most positive outcomes for all.
Please refer to your flexible working policies, but options that may help staff carers could include.
- Reduced working hours, to allow for more time for caring responsibilities.
- A change in working hours for example starting or finishing later to work around caring responsibility timings.
- Condensed hours to allow a regular set time for caring responsibilities such as shopping or cleaning.
- A change of base to reduce commuting times.
- Where appropriate moving to working from home to allow for improved time management when balancing work and caring responsibilities.
From April 2024 all working carers will be entitled to 5 days carers leave. This will be able to be taken as half days or whole days including taking a block of a week in one go. To be entitled to this care, carers need to be providing long term care, so this is aimed at supporting our staff carers.
Most of our health and carer organisations already have carers leave in place. It may be included in Flexible Leave or other policies or as a separate Carers Procedure like LPFT. It is important that carers feel supported with the ability to take their carers leave flexibly and are not made to feel guilty for this.
In some situations, small adjustments can make a huge difference and can work to really benefit both the member of staff and the service. It is work thinking creatively about individual challenges. Examples of small adjustments that can make a bid difference include:
- Permission to take text messages or calls or check phone at set times during shifts.
- An allocated car parking space close to the base to reduce stress and time at the beginning and end of shifts.
Staff carers often spend many hours searching for the right support for the person they care for, but do not have the time to look for support for themselves. Being able to signpost staff carers to help and support is one of the most valuable things we can do.
- Staff carer networks
- Lincolnshire Carers Service
- Carers First
- Carers UK
- Jointly App
- Connect to Support
- The Recovery College Lincolnshire
Staff carer networks
There are many benefits of attending a staff network. They are safe, confidential spaces where members of staff can access peer support, share knowledge and signpost to further information and support.
Staff from all health and care organisations are invited to join the digital staff carers network which is a closed Facebook group where we share information and signposting.
LPFT, LCHS and ULHT staff can contact their EDI teams or visit their intranet pages to find out about their organisation’s staff carer networks.
Lincolnshire Carer Service
The Lincolnshire Carer Service offers support for all unpaid carers in the County. Support is tailored to each individual but will start with telephone based information and support from the customer service centre.
Staff carers can request support from the Lincolnshire Carer Service, here of by phoning 01522 782224 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm, except public holidays) or 01522 782333 (outside office hours) or they can email CarersService
It can be useful to signpost staff carers to the Lincolnshire Carer Service to support them with many aspects of their caring role, particularly if it is having a big impact on their working lives. It’s also important that all of our staff carers are aware of the carers service even if they don’t need them at the moment, so that they are able to reach out for support if required in the future.
Carers First are commissioned by the Lincolnshire Carer Service to support unpaid carers. They also hold face to face groups and events around the county as well as online virtual meetings and groups. As well as this they have a wealth of digital information and resources available for carers free of charge, so can be a really useful place for our staff carers to be signposted to.
Lincolnshire County Council have teamed up with Carers UK to offer carers free access to the Digital Resource for Carers. The Digital Resource for Carers website is packed with helpful information and resources, e-learning modules, hands-on guides and tools to help carers manage their caring responsibilities and look after themselves. It covers areas such as health and wellbeing, practical support, financial support, technology, equipment, and home adaptations to support care and caring and work and caring. To get free access carers can visit carersdigital.org and sign up using the free access code DGTL1946.
Another offer from Lincolnshire County Council and Carers UK is a access to a free app Jointly. This makes caring easier, less stressful and more organised by making communication and coordination between those who share the care as easy as a text message.
Connect to Support
Connect to Support is a free online directory providing information about a range of services in Lincolnshire to support carers and people being cared for.
Lincolnshire Recovery College
Are you finding life challenging or supporting someone who is? Do you want to learn from people with real life experience, alongside education and health professionals? If so, the Lincolnshire Recovery College could be for you.
We offer free educational courses about mental health, recovery and wellbeing. Courses are open to anyone aged 16+ who lives, works or studies in Lincolnshire. There is no referral needed, you can choose the sessions that you would like to come to and register using the online form. Recovery College registration form :: Lincolnshire Partnership NHS Trust (lpft.nhs.uk) or telephone us on 01522 309333 (Mon - Fri 9-2.30pm)
Sessions are held online via Microsoft Teams and in person at a variety of locations and venues across the county. Have a look at the webpage to find out more. Recovery College (lpft.nhs.uk)