We’re on a mission to make sure no carer gets left behind – are you with us?

Is your organisation looking for an innovative and sustainable approach to supporting carers? Our award-winning scaffolded peer-to-peer caring support model Weavers is being scaled across Australia and NZ – and we’re looking for implementation partners in the aged care, disability services and palliative care sectors who are passionate about supporting people caring for a loved one

If you’re interested in implementing Weavers in your organisation, please get in touch with us here, or contact Vita Maiorano, Director Scaling Social Innovation at vita.maiorano@tacsi.org.au.

Ten years ago, a small research team at TACSI dared to ask a big question: “What creates good living for people as they age?” In their journey to answer this question, they came across a cohort of people who had fallen off the radar: carers.

“The more we talked with carers in understanding their experiences, we realised the extent to which they were isolated, overwhelmed and suffering from increased levels of stress, depression and where their own needs were coming last,” says Barbara Binns, Weavers Implementation Lead.

The researchers found that:

  • Caring responsibilities often dominated relationships, leaving carers frequently feeling strained and stretched
  • In some instances, family relationships were suffering
  • Many partners commented on the feeling that they had lost common pursuits and the intimacy that their relationship was founded on

In the same time frame, there was a shift in the funding and administration of aged care services in Australia and the Productivity Commission released a weighty report on the financial future of aged care services. The report called for a new kind of care that focused on people’s lived experiences rather than stats and data; care that moved beyond servicing basic needs to enabling great living in late adulthood.

The need for a solution like Weavers – a scaffolded peer-to-peer support for those caring for someone close to them – was clear.

What makes Weavers unique?

Weavers connects people who are caring for a loved one with someone who has lived experience of being a carer.

“Weavers is co-designed with carers, which means we listen to the voices of carers and work with them to design a program that actually works for them,” says Barbara. “That includes the areas that support needs to focus on, how that support happens and what outcomes carers want to see.”

The 1:1 individualised scaffolded peer to peer support that Weavers provides means we can ensure that every carer gets the support they need on their own terms. “We ask, ‘What kind of support do you need? How and when do you need that to happen?’” says Barbara.

“This means the carer doesn’t have to be available every Tuesday at 2pm for a group session; instead, they can get support through face-to-face catch ups, through phone calls, through emails, through texts, through video conferencing, whatever and whenever works for them,” she says.

“We knew from the insights gathered that carers needed a greater variety of ways in which support could be found. Weavers focuses on finding solutions that are relevant to an individual’s unique situation,” says Barbara.

My Weaver talked to me and shared their experience so that I felt we were on the same page. This helped me build my confidence and feel hopeful for a better future.

A carer

How Weavers changes lives

Since launching in 2013, Weavers has supported more than 100 unpaid carers in partnership with 5 implementation partners across Australia and New Zealand. These carers have told us receiving non-judgemental emotional support from someone who ‘gets it’ means they:

  • Have increased knowledge and assertiveness in connecting to services and supports
  • Have increased capacity to cope when the caring needs change
  • More effective use of informal supports and networks
  • More effective and timely use of formal services

Other carer outcomes include decreased depression, increased self efficacy in the carer role, and increased assertiveness about their own needs.

“If Weavers didn’t exist, we’d have many carers not accessing any support at all, continuing to feel overwhelmed, continuing to have poor health and wellbeing outcomes, experiencing burnout,” says Barbara. “We’d also have people who are receiving care in the home who are not receiving sufficient services. Because if you can’t navigate a system, how do you know what you’re entitled to access? If you can’t work through a problem because you’re so overwhelmed you can’t think straight, how are you going to make confident choices?”

“If you have a reduced capacity to care, the person being cared for is more likely to enter into expensive care, or a formal care arrangement that doesn’t fit with the family’s needs and wants,” she says. “If you’re unsupported as a carer, it puts the person being cared for at additional risk of being placed in residential care, hospitalized, or not receiving adequate and relevant levels of care. So caring for the carer has immense ongoing and deep benefits to society.”

“If these unpaid carers weren’t caring, the aged care system would fall apart,” says Barbara. “46% of people in need of care rely solely on support from friends and family, and conservative estimates put the financial value of carers at $6.5 billion per year.”

It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed. You can feel on your own, like no one understands. People can’t really understand what it’s like unless they’ve been in a caring role.

Margaret, who cared for her frail-aged mother

How you can get involved

We’re building an online platform to help more organisations across Australia and NZ implement Weavers, which means we’re looking to increase our network of implementation partnerships within the disability sector, regional carer service providers, and local councils.

We’re looking to partner with:

  • Aged care service providers
  • Public health and local health networks
  • Disability service providers
  • Palliative care services
  • Councils with a focus on healthy ageing
  • Dementia friendly communities
  • Compassionate communities
  • Community development officers
  • Local Councils across Australia

… who want to:

  • Improve community capacity to care for each other and, in turn, support those doing the caring
  • Create communities who have pride and ownership of where they live and the support available
  • Significantly improve outcomes and the lives of carers as well as those being cared for
  • Provide long term and sustainable support for carers as an increasing demographic with their own health and wellbeing needs
  • Support understanding of services, and increase capacity of support services

“Through implementing the Multicultural Weavers’ Program, the greatest impact I have seen for Carers and Weavers from varied CALD communities is in connecting them to each other, sharing knowledge and experience, building a community of support, and supporting carers to reach out to services, receiving help where they were not receiving support before,” says Rosy Walia, the CEO of Multicultural Care NSW.

“Especially during the pandemic period, the impact has been very significant, such as connecting with each other more strongly, increasing the sharing of valued information regarding Covid and providing protective factors in the lives of carers. Communication has changed over this time as result of lockdown, so that Weavers and Carers are connecting via Zoom and What’s App, and We Chat to remain in touch with each other.”

If your organisation is passionate about activating powerful and individualised community peer support, and wants to commit to funding and extending service offers so that no carer is left behind, we’d love to talk to you.

If you’re interested in implementing Weavers in your organisation, please get in touch with us here, or contact Vita Maiorano, Director Scaling Social Innovation at vita.maiorano@tacsi.org.au.