Saturday, 2 March 2024
Saturday, 2 March 2024

Hft offers free support and advice service for carers of learning disabled people

BUREAUCRATIC processes and procedures around day-to-day issues such as getting planning permission for an extension or change to a residential property can be difficult for anyone but often poses even more of a challenge for those caring for someone with a learning disability.

When one such family in the South West found themselves in this position, national learning disability charity Hft stepped in to help successfully secure planning permission to change their front garden into a driveway to support their relative’s needs.

The support came from Hft’s Family Carer Support Service (FCSS), a unique and free information and support service for unpaid family carers with an autistic relative or a relative with a learning disability.

Joanna Shanks, a Family Carer Supporter within the FCSS, explained:

“Family carers often come across a lot of bureaucracy which can mean help is delayed or simply not given. In this case, being able to help them navigate the process has been life-changing for the family.

“They have an adult child who experiences seizures when they get off the bus home from college and needs to lie down in order to manage that. Before, not having adequate space in front of the house meant they felt very exposed and vulnerable when this happened. But now, having the new driveway means the person can go quickly from the minibus to the door of the house.”

This was a classic case of where the FCSS team was able to support a family to navigate the local authority relationship, liaising with different teams within the council, and helping to keep the pressure on.

Joanna reflects:

“It’s a small thing that’s made a big difference.”

Although there are similar services across the country, Hft’s offering is the only one which offers non-time-limited support to families across the whole of England.

Joanna explains:

“We’re different from a lot of services. When people come to us, there’s no paperwork, no professional referral needed and you don’t need to be connected to Hft – it’s deliberately designed to remove any barriers. The only criteria are that you live in England and are contacting us about someone aged 16 or over.”

Joanna is mum to two autistic, secondary school-age boys, so she, along with other members of the FCSS team, draws on her lived experience for her role, helping relatives to navigate the host of different, sometimes thorny, issues they’re facing.

Issues, where support is available, include money management, benefits, The Care Act and the rights of carer relatives, The Mental Capacity Act, Court of Protection, accessible holidays guidance and resources, being a ‘Mackenzie friend’ in court proceedings, helping where they can to support the carer through the process and challenging local authority (LA) decisions around allocated hours and funding.

FCSS supports a whole range of families and people who aren’t related to the individual in question, but who care for them and have a keen interest in their welfare.

Joanna said:

“Getting to us is really simple, and after they’ve made that initial contact, they will be allocated to one of the team to follow up to find out about their background, the challenges they’re encountering, what they’ve tried so far, and what information they need.

“Often, what we do is about signposting them to the right information – but we’re with them for as long as they need us.”

The FCSS has a variety of family carer-focused guides and resources, designed to simplify complicated topics. If you or anyone you support would like more information, please call our freephone number 0808 801 0448.

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