On our first week back after the Christmas holidays, we took part in Self Advocacy training with Patricia Clark from Carers Scotland.
Carers Scotland has an entire website filled with resources for carers in Scotland and also for paid support workers.
We’ve put together some of the information that was shared in the training below but we recommend Carers Scotland’s website for access to all resources.
Carers Scotland Self Advocacy Resources
Since 2011, Carers Scotland has been working with the Scottish Government to develop self-advocacy resources for carers.
While some carers have access to advocacy in Scotland, many others do not. They have to navigate a confusing system, get their message across in difficult situations and cope with complex thoughts and emotions.
What is self-advocacy?
Caring can be rewarding in its own ways but it can also be very isolating, and carers may not know what help to ask for, how to ask, or indeed who to ask. Self-advocacy means enabling a person to get their own voice heard. For a carer, this means speaking up for themselves and for the person they are caring for. There is nothing mysterious about self-advocacy; it’s just about someone knowing how to communicate their concerns in a way that gives them the best chance of getting a positive outcome.
- To ask for a ‘carers support plan’
- To have a life outside of caring
- To choose what you are willing and not willing to do in your caring role
- To make decisions with someone who can no longer make decisions for themselves (Power of Attorney/Guardianship)
- Be protected from disability discrimination ‘by association’
- Ask for an Assessment of Need for a child with additional support needs
- Raise concerns about a vulnerable adult
- Potentially claim benefits
- Could become a ‘named person’ for someone who is mentally unwell
- Ask for flexible working arrangements
Carers also have a right to:
- Be treated fairly
- Be given information in layman’s terms
- Be given clear answers to your questions
- Have time to voice your concerns
- Feel your opinions are valued
- To have your needs considered
- To be protected against discrimination
Understanding Family Relationships
When it comes to family relationships, most of the rules about communication and assertiveness that are listed in the Carers Scotland Self-Advocacy Guide apply. However, the key difference is that family relationships bring more emotions and history than other kinds of relationships.
Some families get on very well and provide each other with invaluable help and support. However, many families are not emotionally close and rifts, rivalries, personality clashes, and family breakdowns are a fact of life. For many people, things can become particularly difficult when a family member becomes unwell or vulnerable. These days it is quite common for siblings and relatives to be spread across the country or even the world. It is also fairly usual for one family member to take on the main caring role, with other relations contributing to where and when they can. In many cases, other family members may not have any role in caring for their relatives. There is no norm, so as a carer, you just have to work with the circumstances you face.
It is worth remembering that most people have the best intentions for the family member who needs care – even though their ways of doing things may differ greatly to yours. If they haven’t got much of a caring role for the person you look after, it may be that they feel guilty about this situation but find it difficult to say. Maybe they don’t want to seem like they are interfering in the caring role by taking an active part themselves. Maybe they feel left out or even envious of the closeness you have to the relative you are caring for. Maybe they feel uncomfortable in a caring role, or they think you are happy to carry on providing the amount of care you are providing. If some family members have never been close to the person being looked after, they may try and ‘make amends’ or on the other hand, they may still want to keep their distance.
If you are experiencing hostility or unhelpfulness from a family member (including the person you are caring for) it’s very important that you have a support network around you when things are difficult. Spending time with supportive people will help, along with the stress management and mindfulness techniques offered below. Try and limit the time spend with those who get you down and make sure you get breaks when you really need then, however short. If the person you care for is creating the bad feeling, explain – if you are able to – that you are doing your best in difficult circumstances and explain what your needs are.