The second Celebration of Carers in the resort has raised £16k for a Young Carers Champion – and marked the start of a £1m Three in Five campaign to Build a Better Life for Fylde Coast Carers.
It's also done wonders for the sales of Kleenex - and, of course, other tissue makers are available.
You don't normally need a box of hankies for an awards ceremony but if Carers Trust Fylde Coast is hosting it – it’s probably as well.
Around 120 guests at the second Celebration of Carers at the Village Hotel in Blackpool were left visibly moved as carers described how it had felt to look after a loved one with little to no support – until the charity stepped in.
The event celebrated the work of Carers Trust Fylde Coast and carers and included Britain’s Best Breakfast, the national campaign to give carers a better start, the resort's own Cash Quest 4 Carers awards presentation, and annual meeting.
It also marked the launch of the charity's Three in Five campaign to Build a Better Life for Fylde Coast Carers to raise funds to convert and kit out a new carers centre on Newton Drive, Blackpool. This has the potential to be a real gamer for carers and not just in Blackpool but further afield as a beacon for best practice.
But first local carers spoke from the heart – to hammer the message home.
One, identified as Christine, spoke of coming to terms with her mum’s Alzheimer’s.
“The Carers Trust sessions helped me pinpoint mum’s ‘triggers’ so that I could influence, deflect and manage them before ‘war broke out’.
“I learned not to feel guilty about taking time for myself and I am more relaxed around mum, which she senses and responds positively.
“The Carers Trust does exactly what it says on the ‘tin’. They do care. And I do trust them.”
Young mum Kirsty who has a daughter with a sensory and attachment disorder, and another who's autistic and has a chromosome disorder, talked of losing an outreach worker to cutbacks and finding the carers centre a 'lifeline'.
“We had no one until I got in touch with the carers centre.
“We’ve been helped to go out as a family and even on holiday.
“I’m not just thought of as a carer but as a person. I don’t know what I’d do without them.”
Teenager Tara spoke haltingly in hushed tones, of caring for two disabled sisters.
She’d never heard of the charity until referred to them by Connexions – and admitted: “I thought a carer was a professional who looked after people.
“I’m coming to terms with the pressures of being someone else’s lifeline.
“It’s made my life a little better and bearable.
“I don’t feel alone and isolated.
“I am very financially restricted so trips give me a few hours to be myself – not someone’s carer.
“I realise I do have a future and can do anything I want to do. I hope this is just the beginning.”
Blackpool council officer John Joyce told of how wife Bev, diagnosed with MS inspired his Ice Cold Chef social media identity and his new #soscookery cookbook - £2.50 of the £15 cover price going to the carers charity..
John, adult carer of the year, has been invited to a carers reception at the Commons- along with Young Carers Champion Lauren Codling.
He was one of the few individuals competing against 22 other teams, mostly corporate, in the second Cash Quest 4 Carers. For his quest he also hosted a buffet party for 70 guests at his home.
The 100 day CQ4C ended with almost £16k raised to fund the sixth Young Carers Champion for Blackpool to fight the corner for children and young adults.
The role is a relative rarity. Dr Moira Fraser, director of policy and research for the national Carers Trust, concedes: “Blackpool definitely does things differently.”
Carers Trust Fylde Coast, established as Blackpool Carers Centre 10 years ago, is one of the best and biggest partners in the 165-strong network.
The new HQ in waiting – a spacious detached property on Newton Drive - was bought by Beaverbrooks Charitable Trust and donated to the charity this year.
Business leaders John and Danielle Barnett – who helped found the charity – are heading the new Three in Five campaign To Build a Better Life for Fylde Coast Carers.
They are recruiting a network of ambassadors. Radio Wave - which was founded by John - has already offered to run a pre-Christmas charity auction for the cause.
Station manager Paula Davies admits: “I’ve been blown away by what the charity does – and the carer’s stories are inspirational.”
Three in five of us will become carers– hence the campaign’s title.
Charity chief executive Michelle Smith announced her quest for a new HQ at the inaugural CQ4C last year.
"It shows miracles happen. Someone heard and responded."
But first the building must be converted into a fit-for-purpose carers centre.
John is urging others to buy into that vision.
“It will improve the lives of all local carers and their families,” he adds.
Former young carers champion Lauren agrees. “The property enables us to grow the charity and change the future for carers.”
Lauren’s eloquence moved many to tears.
And she shed some herself as she passed the baton to best friend Camilla Ball, Blackpool’s latest Young Carers Champion, at the AGM.
Camilla thanked CQ4C contestants for giving her the opportunity to represent the charity which had helped her since she was 11.
“This was a lifeline for me. It enabled me to enjoy my childhood and make lifelong friends. It gave me the confidence to work hard, believe in myself and better my life.
“To be part of this amazing organisation gives me the chance to give so much more back. It’s the best feeling in the world to change a person’s life for the better – without them feeling judged.
“Thank you for helping make my dreams and ambitions come true.”
The second Celebration of Carers was hosted by Radio Wave personality Hayley Kaye, ambassador for the charity.
Twenty three teams raised £15,822.88, 23 per cent more than 15 teams raised at the inaugural event: £12,875.89.
Half the cash - £8k - was raised by the Sandcastle Waterpark Mission Impossible team, winning the prize for most money raised for the second year. Last year they raised £6k.
One member of the team cycled 555 miles coast to coast.
Most innovative award went to the Community End of Life and Care Home team for a sponsored parachute jump by Sarah Pennington, along with cake sales – and a six week slimming challenge.
Blackpool’s Goalden Girls braved weeks of rehearsals in platform heels to present a synchronised 70s flash dance at Grosvenor G Casino – coinciding with the casino’s own retro charity evening.
Blackpool butcher Nigel Wilkinson sold carer-themed bangers and burgers – and supported Ice Cold Chef John’s event.
Six teams from the charity took part along with Blackpool Teaching Hospitals End of Life team, Burtons Biscuits, DMS Whittingham Military Team, Palm Insurance, new trustee Sarah Lambert, Imperial Hotel, Victoria Hospital wards 14 and 18, Whitegate Pharmacy, Waterloo Primary Academy and Blackpool North MP Paul Maynard.
The awards were presented by Mayor and Mayoress Coun Peter and Maxine Callow – who have made the carers charity, their mayoralty charity - assisted by Rocco, the carers charity donkey mascot.
High profile national speakers at the Blackpool carers’ event included Dr Moira Fraser, director of policy and research for Carers Trusty, who spoke of new rights “and lots to get right” in implementing the Children and Families Act for young carers.
Paul Jebb, Experience of Care Professional Lead, NHS England, and new trustee of the local charity, defined a carer as “anyone who cares, unpaid, for a friend or family member who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction cannot cope with their support.”
He added: “Anyone can become a carer – most people won’t know it.”
Jebb estimated 16,320 carers in Blackpool (11.5 per cent of the resort’s population) contributed to the very sustainability of the NHS itself.”
He concluded: “We need to do more to identify more carers and ensure they receive support – and we can’t care for carers without thinking about the ‘cared for’. Supporting carers is supporting our community. It’s the right thing to do.”
The event also marked the appointment of Professor Saul Becker, the world's leading authority on young carers, as the charity's president. Saul grew up in Blackpool and was a young carer himself. Four high profile trustees have also joined the charity's board.
Since last year Carers Trust Fylde Coast has seen: a 34 per cent increase in new adult carer referrals and 3352 adult carers supported throughout the year; 413 referrals (up from 127 the previous year) to the carers ‘ hospital project; 46 training presentations to Victoria Hospital and Spiral Health staff; 383 carers of people with dementia receive one to one support (up from 149); 192 places provided on dementia training courses; six mental health training sessions organised for 150 frontline professionals; HUGS (Help Understanding and Group Support) established with 111 attendances; 310 youngsters referred to Young Carers – up from 119; 1337 individual attendances at youth clubs; a 59 per cent increase in Young Adult Carers engaged with the project; 308 places provided on trips and activities – up from 82 the previous year; 65 family members access the Family Focus project working with children and families affected by parental substance misuse; 84 places provided on family outings; 30 young people from Highfurlong, Red Marsh and Park School undertake work experience placements with 26 employers. Pilot studies identified gaps in service which led to lottery funding for a four year parent carer project and a one year sibling project. For more info see http://www.carerstrustfyldecoast.org or follow @BlackpoolCarers
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