Phil first contacted Gateshead Carers in December 2018, after hearing about us from a lady at Barnardo’s.  He initially referred himself to us as needed financial help towards a Fridge Freezer as his was broken and he was using his nanna’s fridge.  In his first meeting with a Carer Wellbeing Facilitator (CWF) they explained to Phil that we like to understand the history of how he became a carer for the person that he is looking after. He explained that he was a single parent of his daughter who was 10 years old at this time. She was in the process of being assessed for autism and Global Sensory Disorder. Phil explained that this had taken several months before he came to us for help and he was feeling extremely frustrated at the processes, and we explained that although this can be lengthy it will be completed at some point and a diagnosis will be obtained.

Caring for his daughter and her ‘melt downs’

We discussed that his daughter did not have contact with her maternal parent and they were fine about this but he did go on to explain that he feels very isolated.  Although, his daughter’s grandparents could look after her for short lengths of time they could not look after her longer as they did not understand her ‘melt downs’ and how to help her. Phil explained that he had worked full time as a distance delivery driver up until a few months ago but he found he could not cope looking after his daughter and working at the same time. He had reduced his hours to 8 hours per week before he came to Gateshead Carers and he was now in receipt of Carers Allowance. He found that having a dramatically reduced income had impacted on the finances of the home. Phil did not want to give up his job totally as this was his lifeline and friendships that he respected and wanted, but his daughter was starting to have ‘meltdowns’ at school and her behaviour could be very erratic and by then she had started to self-harm. Phil worried every time he went to work and wondered when the school would ring him to pick her up and this was too overwhelming for him to continue working. Phil was and still is in a relationship and at the first meeting had a nine month old son with his partner but the relationship could not really be developed because of the issues that his daughter had with her half-brother and his mum. His partner was very understanding of the difficulties he had with his daughter but it did have an impact on their relationship.

Receiving support for his own needs

Phil and his daughter were involved with CYPS (Children’s and Young Persons Service) and Barnardo’s Gateshead but everything they were involved in focussed on his daughter until he came to us, which he was relieved about as now he felt he could receive support for his needs and not just his daughters. He was very humbled when he came to the office for his first appointment but very grateful that we could apply for funding for a new fridge freezer, this was successful and he bought one, of which he was extremely grateful for. He was also glad that he could talk openly in a confidential manner with a Carer Wellbeing Facilitator and not feel judged. They discussed his caring role and helped him with coping mechanisms that he could use at home with his daughter to help them both to understand her behaviours. In this meeting they also discussed a funding called the ‘Time for me Grant’ which was available at the time and he was surprised at how much help we could offer him. Phil wanted a new laptop as his was old and did not work properly. We applied for this and he purchased the laptop.

Their first holiday together as a family and coming closer together 

In future one to one meetings they discussed if he had ever had a holiday with his daughter as the CWF felt that they needed a break together as a whole family unit. He discussed this with his partner and she was happy for this to go ahead. We sometimes use a charity called the Family Holiday Association which offer breaks for families who are on a low income or have not had a break for over four years. We completed this application and it was submitted to them in early 2019, this was successful and it meant that Phil could have a caravan holiday close to where he lives but far enough away for a break. They chose to go to Haggerston Castle. Phil was fearful that his daughter would not cope with the change and they would have to return home early or that she would refuse to go and there would be no holiday at all. They had never gone on holiday as he did not know how his daughter would behave or if she would even enjoy it. Well the holiday was a great success as what it did was cement the relationship with his partner and his daughter’s half-brother.  When he returned we have to complete a feedback form for the association and he was over the moon that the holiday had gone well and he explained that it had changed their lives beyond recognition. It also made him realise that they should go on holiday every year for at least a week. So they started to save a little money that they could spare so that they could do this. He realised how important it is to have a proper break and also enjoy it.  

Phil has now had numerous contact with Gateshead Carers on a one to one basis (at the minute over the phone due to Covid) and he knows where we are if he needs to ask a question.

Understanding the importance of time for himself and his mental health and wellbeing

This year Phil received funding for a bike as his was unfortunately stolen and he now uses it to get to and from work and for exercise. He uses his bike to relax and keep fit as he can do this now as his daughter is more settled and has help with her schooling. She was eventually diagnosed with Autism and Global Sensory Disorder a few weeks ago.  She has a tutor who is doing one to one work with her out of school and she is learning German and a musical instrument. Her behaviours have settled down and they are all coping a lot better as a whole family. Phil has a better relationship with his partner and his son as his daughter has accepted them into their life and all of this after a holiday and some mechanism’s that he has learnt from us. They have had a holiday this year to Pickering and really enjoyed it and he has realised that he needs to take time for himself for his own mental health and wellbeing.