Authors: Schizophrenia Fellowship of NSW Inc.
Event: 2006 TheMHS Awards
Type of resource: TheMHS Awards
Award state: NSW
Award level: Winner
Award category: Family/ Carer-Run Program or Service
Abstract: Carer Assist is an innovative, responsive and flexible approach to support those caring for someone with a mental illness. A program of the Schizophrenia Fellowship of NSW, Carer Assist provides information, education, support and advocacy for carers and families. Carer Advocates are trained in mental health education, advocacy and support and currently cover eight areas across NSW. The Carer Assist program is run mainly by carers who provide an empathic, empowering and understanding source of support, someone with whom carers can build rapport, share daily events and be listened to. Carer Assist provides information tailored to the needs of carers and families; topics include what is mental illness, what services are available, the mental health system, how to build resilience and coping skills. The Carer Advocates support carers directly and via encouraging self advocacy skills. Carer Assist runs the very effective and information training program specifically designed for mental health carers – Well Ways. Description of Facility/Organisation: In 2002, the Schizophrenia Fellowship of NSW received pilot funding from the Centre for Mental Health through the Family and Carers Mental Health Program to set up and trial a service for carers of people living with mental illness. In August 2003, due to the excellent work of the service, the funding was extended for a year and expanded to cover eight Area Health Services three days per week. The areas serviced now are: Central Sydney, Greater Murray, Hunter, Illawarra, Northern Sydney, Macquarie, Mid North Coast and South West Sydney. Initially called the Carers Support Unit, the service was renamed Carer Assist - Support for Mental Health Carers in 2005. Carers are assisted on the basis that someone in the family or the consumer lives in the regions covered. The program employs ten staff. Up to the end of December 2005, Carer Assist had received 1687 initial calls and been involved in 2679 follow up calls (4366 in total). We have also provided Well Ways, an education and support training program for carers of people with a mental illness, for 247 people across NSW with over 70 more currently participating in six courses around the State. Funding for Carer Assist since January 2004 has been $451,534 per annum. This is provided through the Centre for Mental Health, NSW Health, Family & Carers Mental Health Program.