Earlier this year the Carers’ Centre in Bath and North East Somerset was awarded a grant from Comic Relief to produce a portfolio of films that will help them raise awareness, increase referrals and drive fundraising and volunteer applications. We were named in the proposal as the production company partner.
We have just come to the end of an inspiring three months, working in beautiful BANES, meeting some amazing carers. Look out for the results on the Carers’ Centre YouTube channel over the next few months. As this week is Carers’ Week– a week to recognise and celebrate the 6.5 million carers around the UK- we thought we’d catch up with Emma Tucker, Marketing and Communications Manager to find out more about their work and how they plan to use the new content.
Can you describe the work of the Carers’ Centre?
We work to improve the lives of unpaid carers. We offer free activities, advice and support for carers including children and young people – anyone who’s looking after someone else who needs extra support day to day.
What are the challenges facing carers in your area?
Looking after someone else – an elderly parent, spouse, a child with special needs or someone else – long term can be really challenging. Carers can feel isolated, overwhelmed and not sure where to turn. There can be big impacts on work and finances as well as social lives. And it can take a real emotional toll as relationship dynamics change or conditions worsen. For carers in rural areas, transport to get around can be a big challenge.
How have you previously used stories in your work?
We have collected written stories with photographs as our main form of storytelling, which we often share on our blog or in newsletters. We share stories of carers whose lives have improved after getting support – things like getting back into employment after a long break or being better able to manage the emotional load of caring. We have been able to share a few videos about our work thanks to sponsorship or student projects but we’ve never been able to produce really polished films like we have now.
Why do you think it’s important to use real life stories in your communications and engagement activities work?
We want carers to feel like our ambassadors. Carers telling others how we’ve helped them is worth so much more than anything we could say about ourselves! We hope that hearing authentic voices of people we work with will encourage others to recognise themselves as carers, and realise there is support out there for them.
How would you like to see the narrative on what being a carer is like change?
We’d like to see more recognition for carers – by family and friends, by healthcare professionals, by schools and by all of our community – to recognise and value the work that carers do every day. Many carers tell us they don’t feel listened to or that their friends disappear because they don’t know what to talk about. We want to see carers feeling proud of their role and able to ask for help when they need it, rather than feeling isolated and worried. Our vision is a community where carers are fully recognised and supported and have what they need to stay well, connected and feel in control.
Did you have any concerns about asking carers to share their personal stories?
There’s always a concern about asking people to share deeply personal issues that can be very emotional. So, we always want to make sure that carers are in a place where they do feel able to share their story and hopefully can find the process therapeutic in some way to get it off their chest and out in the world. And we hope to share the impact of that story so the carer can see that they’ve helped others by sharing. We can see the immense value in these stories but it has to be at the right time for that person.
How do you plan on using your new films in your work?
We have a blog, social media channels and we do lots of in-person presentations with various organisations so we hope to use the films across all of those areas. We hope to see more referrals as a result of these films where more people are thinking ‘that’s me, I can get support’ or maybe that they know a carer who could use our help. We also hope to grow our YouTube channel so we can reach more carers online!
How did you find working with Mile 91?
We loved working with Ben and Catherine, and everyone involved with Mile 91 (Lucy, and the other Ben!). They are so professional and skilled but equally very friendly, funny and easy to get along with. They helped us through this process – we’ve never taken on such a big storytelling project before and in some ways were really out of our element but they made the process much more manageable! We also really appreciated the care they took getting to know our storytellers and sharing those stories in a sensitive and thoughtful way. There was always a sense of the real people at the heart of these stories and their needs were put first.
What would be your advice to other Carers’ Centres who want to invest in storytelling?
If you get the chance to take on this kind of project we would say go for it. We’ve never been able to really do our carer stories justice because of our limited resources, but these films have really brought our work to life with carer voices at the forefront. It’s been a brilliant experience and we’re very happy with the final result.
If you want to invest in your storytelling and use authentic voices to reach more people get in touch. Coming soon on the blog will be a window on our work with children’s hospices for Children’s Hospice Week – make sure you never miss a blog by subscribing today.