So, why is Choice Wellbeing Service Different?
CWS is directed by a group of equal parent carers to non-parent carers. There are four parent carers on the board of five directors. This means that all programmes that are ran, will be in the interest of the parent carers. CWS also offer support parent carers earlier than any other current service known to parent carers in Sunderland.
Currently, help offered to parent carers at the point of child’s diagnosis in this area is self-referral only. CWS hopes in the future to be an instant support, where parent carers can opt out, versus current opt-in method. We believe this method would encourage more parent carers to look for support sooner, offering early intervention versus crisis control. Referrals can be made by GP Practices, Organisations, and self-referral.
The service is not limited and is available to all individuals who have full care of a child with additional needs.
What evidence is there to support the NEED of this service?
Currently, there has been no research into the mental health decline of parents, post diagnosis of additional need. However, there has been a lot of research on mental health issues of parent carers written retrospectively. One of our goals is to seek to fill this gap of research in the future.
Contact, for Families with Disabled Children Charity (2011), stated that the impact of families with disabled children are ;
72% experience mental ill health such as anxiety, depression, or breakdown due to isolation
almost half (49%) have felt so unwell that they asked their GP for medication or have seen a counsellor
57% say lack of support means they are isolated and not able to work as much as they would like
1 in 5 (21%) say that isolation has led to the break-up of their family life.
When do families feel isolated?
65% of families with disabled children reported feeling isolated frequently or all of the time
64% reported feeling most isolated when their child was first diagnosed with a disability
43% said that they felt most isolated during school holidays
This research was conducted in 2011. Finding research, that did not take into consideration the impact of Covid 19 Pandemic, and only took parent carers into consideration has been next to none.
What does CWS offer?
CWS offers a listening ear, from mental health trained peer support volunteers and trainee therapists. Parent Carers will have the opportunity to join programmes of empowerment, resilience and understanding.
We also offer support around healthy eating and healthy living, including accessible exercise classes.
We offer fully-funded therapeutic treatments, to ensure parent carers don’t lose themselves in the mist of caring.
There will also be an opportunity for counselling support by one of the four person-centred counsellors in the future. Counselling will be offered on a provisional twelve session basis (current average sessional offer) and will be able to move to open ended depending on the need of client.
What will be the impact of this service on the parent carers?
The aim of the service will be to ensure parent carers are offered instant mental health support. Upon speaking to parent carers often, most recall that the ‘early days’ of their journey into the SEND community were daunting, lonely, and often felt lost, wishing they had someone who ‘got it’. Most parent carers suggesting that they are now, “not who they once were”, which was another recurring comment made by parent carers.
Our programmes hope to alleviate mental health pressures, reduce stress, and offer support at a crucial point in an individual’s life.
The service promotes the care of the parent carer specifically, promoting autonomy, empowerment, and independence. Parent carers will hopefully feel more validated, understood, and supported, reducing the strain on some services.
We hope parent carers will begin to feel more balanced and less angry towards those supporting their families.
Our service hopes that by accessing CWS the confidence of parent carers will begin to grow. If the parent carers chooses, we can offer support and understanding of their concerns around work, going back to work or starting new ventures.
We promote opportunities of volunteering within the service and other local opportunities of volunteering if paid work is not viable.
How will we achieve this and continue to have parent carers at the forefront of work?
CWS work in coproduction with organisations in the area who currently offer some support this particular community. This includes, but not limited to, Sunderland Parent Carer Forum, Sunderland Carers Centre, and Sunderland Mind.
We are happy to also work in coproduction with all other local services.
Visions for the future
Our vision for the future is to be able to offer the service to the whole family, all carers, and parents without a child with additional needs. Not limiting any family circumstance.
So, Why Choice?
"Simple. To most parent carers looking after their children with additional needs didn’t feel like much of a choice. Often when asked “how do you cope?” my response is “i don’t have a choice”.
By naming the organisation Choice we are promoting straight away that carers CAN choose themselves" ~ Tracey