Day one – September 3, 2015 (sent by Anna at 1.30am this morning)
WOW – what an amazing first night and introduction to what I think is going to be a truly fascinating experience.
I bumped into an old friend of Carers’ Resource Mary Larkin, who presented at our Caring Callers conference in the UK and is now on the Standing Commission on Carers with our Director.
As we stood chatting near an exhibition stall we were welcomed by two Swedish colleagues who run a mental health support organisation for carers and those they care for. They explained that in Sweden mental health is still extremely taboo, possibly even more so than drug or alcohol problems, and that carers remain very much hidden.
Next, following the welcome address I met more colleagues from academia – including our very own Jenny Read, a PhD student who’s working with Carers’ Resource. As we enjoyed some delicious Swedish nibbles we were joined by two gents from the Carers Association in Ireland.
We discussed access to politicians and decision makers – extremely interesting to learn that due to the relatively small size of their country they feel very close and able to discuss openly with their political leaders carers’ issues, although they are currently debating an issue over carers allowance – a very generous benefit of more than about 200 euro a week, and whether it should be exportable.
A complex but very interesting and relevant issue, given the recent concern in England over whether carers allowance would remain or be included in other more overarching payments.
I wandered round a few more stalls, and met two lovely ladies from the Swedish Red Cross. This organisation operates a little differently over here in Sweden – their focus is on supporting older people in their own homes (a little like befriending, I think) and running group training sessions for carers. They couldn’t believe the number of staff we had as they have just THREE for the whole of Sweden! But they are very well supported by a huge team of volunteers – just as we are. They thought our Home from Hospital and Caring Callers services sounded amazing.
Finally I met colleagues from Israel. Caring in their country is at a very high percentage – almost one in three people is a carer as there is very little state provision, and all care has to be done by family and friends.
I bumped into the two leading lights from Carers UK as I was leaving; Emily Holzhausen, whom I’d met previously at the conference four years ago in Leeds, and Helena Herklots their CEO who was very interested in our app and wants to chat more. She was rushing off to get to a briefing on escorting the Queen of Sweden who will be giving an address during opening plenaries tomorrow (September 4). It’s wonderful to think that caring is being given such a truly important and global airing.
I hope to bring you more insights and facts throughout my stay here and will, of course, be ensuring I put Carers’ Resource, our fabulous team and services, truly on the international map.
You can follow my blog here…. And there is also a twitter feed for the conference as a whole #carers2015