In late February 2020 Kirsty realised that she had to complete her son’s DLA application by the middle of March. She started to panic about this as she was struggling completing it herself. Kirsty decided to look on the internet to see if there was anywhere in Gateshead that could help her. That is when she came across the Gateshead Carers Association website. She then contacted us and an appointment was made with our benefits worker to complete the application.

At Gateshead Carers, if a referral is made for benefits these forms are completed first and then the carer is contacted by a Carer Wellbeing Facilitator (CWF) to introduce them to what the agency offers to all carers that use us. Kirsty was referred to a CWF in the first week of March 2020 and an appointment was made for her to come to the office the following week. Due to the Covid 19 pandemic this appointment had to be rearranged as the office was then officially closed to members of the public.

Completing forms and keeping safe during the initial COVID 19 outbreak

The initial appointment had been for help to complete an application for a funding stream called the Family Fund as the carer struggled to complete forms. The initial appointment was then to be completed by telephone as we were all working from home by this time.  When talking to Kirsty on the phone for the first time the CWF hit a brick wall with regards to the completion of the form as Kirsty did not have a printer to print the form off. Luckily, the CWF did have a printer so she printed this off in her home office and completed it for her, but she also needed a copy of the DLA award and other documentation that was required for the application. With the Family Fund you have to have a child in receipt of an award to access funding from them. The CWF had to work out how to get this information from Kirsty given the restrictions of home working. She had a brainwave and asked Kirsty to take a photo on her mobile of the information needed and to email it over allowing the CWF to print it off and post it back to Kirsty so she could sign it. Kirsty, at this time had already stopped going out and stopped opening letters so she did not want the application to be posted until she knew that it was safe to open letters (at this time the pandemic was new and no one knew if the virus could be passed on through letters). They discussed that the CWF would keep the form until Kirsty felt that it could be posted to her safely.

Reading the body language without being able to see each other

In the initial meeting they discussed the website, Facebook and the Carer Wellbeing Fund and discussed how she and her two children were coping. She was extremely worried about the pandemic and she said that her children had disappeared to their bedrooms and rarely came out, just for food. She was trying to home school them but her son with Autism could not cope with home schooling so she was getting really stuck in a rut. A CWF would normally see carers face to face which allows them to read body language and to get to know the carer. This has proved problematic for CWFs since working from home, as when they have not met a carer face to face they cannot read their body language to see if the coping mechanisms they are suggesting are being helpful. The CWF found herself in a position of suggesting different mechanisms with Kirsty and not knowing if they would work. Normally, you can also see If a carer is stressed or looking a bit low in mood and she could not judge this but her instinct and training gave her the feeling that Kirsty was low in mood and feeling a bit lost in her own world. She kept in touch with her every week for this whole period of Covid 19.

A new bed for Kirsty and a weighted blanket for her Autistic son to improve their sleep

The CWF helped Kirsty to complete the Carer Wellbeing Fund application for a new bed for her as she did not have a comfortable bed and her autistic son at that time had been sleeping in the same bed. He, like a lot of Autistic children, does as he needs to feel safe and struggles to sleep. They discussed that you can purchase weighted blankets that can help sleeping and if she looked on the Autistic society website there are books that you can purchase or view online to help with sleeping patterns to help him sleep. The CWF completed the application for a new bed and Kirsty bought this which she loves and her son started to sleep in his own room with the aid of the weighted blanket. Kirsty was much happier when they talked again.

Coming out of a dark place

Kirsty started to talk more openly to the CWF once they got to know each other and she realised that she had been in a really dark place since the beginning of lockdown and she was starting to come out of this with the help of the CWF and the mechanisms that she was previously unaware of like the weighted blanket and a basic sleep routine.

Kirsty started to feel ‘back to herself’ and she quoted “All I can say is a massive thank you. I’m back to being me once again, your help and kindness have been very much appreciated here and the service from Gateshead Carers has been impeccable”.

A therapy kitten brings joy to the family

During lockdown Kirsty bought a black kitten to help her and her son have something positive in their life. She has loved the kitten being around the home and helping with hers and her son’s mental health. They have now started doing YouTube videos of the kitten as he can be very naughty and cheeky. They are receiving good feedback from these and really enjoying themselves doing them. Kirsty says that the kitten has now become a therapy Cat and she is now a camera lady and her son a You Tuber.   

Kirsty is so proud of herself and so is her CWF as Kirsty has done all the hard work and listened to all the mechanisms and suggestions. Lastly, just in case you are wondering about the Family Fund application yes, this was posted in August to Kirsty and she signed it and posted it.