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Mental health: ethnic minority carers’ experiences

Carers' assessments

The law says that everyone who spends time caring for someone has the right to have their needs assessed by social services. This is the case even if the carer works or lives separately from the person she or he cares for. The purpose of the assessment is to find out what support carers need to balance caring with life, work and family commitments. But carers' assessments don't always happen, sometimes because health professionals or carers are not aware of them. One woman, for example, had only found out about them when she had been caring for four years.

Some people thought an assessment could be useful, but hadn't really done much about it or said “nobody actually asked me”. Many of the carers we spoke to had never had an assessment.

Those who had been assessed told us of mostly negative experiences. Many carers were "not sure if it helped". Assessments involve "pages and pages" of forms and filling in information that may have been recorded "millions of times before" and as a result of assessments, some carers had been told that, “There is nothing we can do.” Others were offered services which didn't meet their needs. 

 

Her first carer's assessment offered unsuitable respite, but the second assessment was better ...

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Age at interview: 59
Sex: Female
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So I got involved with Rethink and then somehow I must have heard, been told I was entitled to a carers assessment, and which I had, and I didn't find it very useful because what he suggested was for Max to go somewhere, like for people with mental health problems for a week, to give me a break, and I had said, - had told him Max was not going to go anywhere because he didn't want to have anything to do with people with mental health problems, as he was adamant that he was not mentally ill. So basically that was it. Either my son had to fit in what was offered, or there was nothing. And then I was told another thing, that somebody was going to contact me about support, carer support, -nobody did. So I just thought that was it, I just left it at that really, but I felt it was not useful then. I had another one since, which was better, obviously, you know, things are improving.

 
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Ramila felt obliged to have a carer's assessment in case it could help her brother, but the...

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Age at interview: 56
Sex: Female
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And then there was this person asking me everything which I felt had been there, and recorded quite a few times before, or millions of times I would say. And I think underneath, it didn't seem to me that there was any understanding really. Because they didn't understand my situation, and I went through the procedure because I think, I had to, I had contacted the mental health service managers to say, look they've withdrawn this CMHT person from my brother and I feel very upset about it. And I needed to be, for myself, I needed to be doing something for my brother, to making sure that he got some kind of service, or have-. And so I went through this procedure of going to see the service manager and talking to him and opening my heart and crying my tears. And he said, right, you know, maybe I could go through this assessment. So I went through this assessment. And really there was no understanding and then as I expected, surely a letter arrived on my doorstep saying that, at this stage they didn't think there was anything else they could do for my brother. So it just kind of was confirmation of what I knew already. And yet in a way, being forced to go through the system. And what in fact was offered was that, why did I not go to carers' support group? And I thought, I work full time. I look after my brother in all my spare time. I work in caring services, with mental health services, so I know most of the things. How do they expect me to go to a carers' support group? And what are they expecting me, -what support are they expecting me to get? Because the support I want is a professional support. Somebody checking with me, or somebody offering me some of their time and seeing the way I do things, it's just a reconfirmation of whatever I'm doing is the best really. And yet that's not on offer from anywhere. And so it's, it becomes quite annoying really.

One carer said that although the assessment had identified some of the help he needed, the professional carers "don't do half the jobs" they were supposed to. He felt he needed to monitor their work to make sure everything was done properly.

Some had chosen not to have an assessment done (or repeated), saying assessments were punishing, involved "lots of hurdles" and question your honesty.

 

She does not apply for things she is entitled to because she feels her honesty is doubted (played...

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Age at interview: 69
Sex: Female
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I had one years ago now, years ago I had an assessment, but it didn't, it didn't get to anything, because you see, sometimes. -You see that's the only thing I don't like, sometimes when you have this sort of a problem, you know, and they want to maybe, -I don't know what to say- maybe give you some things, financial help here, I had to go through all this red tape and all this questioning and all these things. I mean, when you have this sort of problem why should you? When you are genuine, if you are a genuine person and they know that you're a genuine person, why do you have to go through all this red tape, this rigmarole of questioning? And I don't, -I just can't do with it. So sometimes they just say, 'Oh you could claim for this, you could claim for that'. I don't bother. I just can't go through with it, many a time I think that there are things out there I could claim for, but I don't, I don't because I cannot be bothered to go through all this when I know that my case is genuine. So I don't really put myself in that position. I'm satisfied what I've got, I can live on it what I've got and I'm all right. I don't bother, because it's too much, I can't do with it, I can't do with that.

One carer had given up when the self-addressed envelope with her form was returned after three months. She said, “If they can't process a form, what can they do for me?” Some felt assessments for carers need to be re-thought so as to involve less 'red tape' and to take carers' emotional, practical and financial needs into account better.

 

Nita thinks carer's assessments need to be re-thought so that people don't have to jump 'hurdles'...

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Age at interview: 46
Sex: Female
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And my experience with carers assessments are that they're only done now and again, or if there's a good, you know, worker involved. They're not done as a matter of course, so they need to be looked at. And the other worry I have around assessments is your explanation to that person, you know assessment is quite a punitive way of working with people, and I don't know how we bypass that. It's almost like we've got to overcome a load of hurdles before we get what we're entitled to, and I'm sure it could be made easier.

One carer said that when social workers speak to carers about assessments they need to keep in mind that there is no good word for 'assessment' in some languages so social workers need to find alternative ways to talk about what a carers' assessment is.

But not all assessments are negative, as the clip below shows:

 
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Emily was happy with her carer's assessment which was supported by her local African-Caribbean...

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Age at interview: 36
Sex: Female
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Have you had a carer's assessment?

Yes, I did from the African Caribbean Centre, I did, and from the [community centre], through the African Caribbean Centre.

And how was that, how was it to have the carer's assessment?

Well, it was good because it felt as human, that I've got somebody on my side who do understand what I'm going through and supported me through that situation because as a carer, you do need the person who you are caring for even to get involved in a little bit of activities, so that they can feel they are wanted in society because a lot of people who do caring people, they can't, I think activities is important.

Why's that?

Because it makes a person who you are caring for a bit happier and they felt as if they are in society. Because on one day my husband looking, look forward to go to the leisure centre and he plays football with the other disabled persons and it's good.


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Last reviewed September 2018.

Last updated February 2013.

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