A Sheffield charity is starting groups across the city to connect carers to each other.
Sheffield Mencap and Gateway started the ‘Carers Outreach Project’ (COPe) this April to introduce carers of those with mild-moderate learning disabilities or autism to each other.
Katie Ward, Carers Outreach Project Worker, said: “It’s about connecting them into the community. Often as a carer you lose your identity and become very isolated.
“We want to connect them into a larger network.”
COPe consists of fortnightly meetings for groups of carers around the city. The idea is that half of the carers will take time off to socialise while the other half look after the cared for people.
Ms Ward said: “We’re trying to nurture both of them so they have a sense of belonging in the community.”
Currently the charity have two groups in Birley and Sharrow, but are working on starting more in the new year in Rivelin, Shiregreen and Lowfield.
Sessions will be run by COPe workers initially, but they aim to gradually withdraw after six months and leave the running of the group to its members.
A multitude of activities are run within these groups to get carers interacting with each other. COPe workers run art tutorials and contemporary dance sessions. One group has a football coach who works with the carers to encourage them to get active.
Carers are encouraged to suggest their own ideas for sessions, to help them slowly work towards running the sessions independently.
“We want to leave a legacy so carers feel empowered to lead the groups themselves,” said Ms Ward.
“We’re offering them angles to look at how they can run the groups themselves.”
COPe is funded by a National Lottery bid from Mencap, but this only covers the first six months. After this point, those who want to continue the groups have to find a way to do so themselves.
It was originally set up by Ms Ward and Kelly Daubney.
Jan Outram, Community Liaison Coordinator for Sheffield Carers, runs many projects of her own that help carers meet each other.
She said: “It’s been widely recognised that loneliness and isolation are the biggest causes of loneliness and ill health in older people. People who are caring for someone are often even more isolated because they often lose their friends, they don’t see family members as often as they did before.
“A support group is a way of getting some time out, making new friends and meeting other people in a similar situation.”