A new Dorset Carer Reference Group will give unpaid carers the opportunity to discuss key issues for carers, share their views and experiences of local NHS and carer services and help to shape new services being considered for the future.

If you are supporting someone in the Dorset Council area, we’d love you to join us. The group will be meeting at various locations next year between 11am – 1pm. There will also be the opportunity to join these meetings online.

Friday 24 February – Wimborne Community Centre, 41-44 King Street, Wimborne

Friday 7 April – Portland Community Venue, Three Yards Close, Portland, DT5 1JN

Friday 19 May – Stour Connect, Stourview Close, Sturminster Newton, DT10 1JF

Friday 30 June – Bridport Tourist Information Centre, Town Hall, Bucky-Doo Square, Bridport, DT6 3JP

If you are interested in joining the Dorset Carer Reference Group, email us at admin@carersupportdorset.co.uk or call us on 0800 368 8349.

If you’re interested in a first hand account from a current member of the group, Steve has kindly written about how he came to join the group below. We hope this helps to explain what can be achieved and gained by joining, but please contact us with any questions you may have.

“I’m not sure when I became a carer. My wife has Huntington’s Disease which sort of creeps up on you then hangs around for a very long time. I do know that I was completely out of my comfort zone and pretty clueless about what to do and where to get help. There seemed to be a very complex system to be navigated and a lot of pieces to be fitted together and prioritised.

Things were missing that I expected to be there. Somebody to hold my hand whilst I attempted to sort out all these complex issues; an integrated system to make a smooth passage through the many disciplines, organisations and departments that my wife would need; a recognition of my role and expertise and someone who was asking how I was. And most importantly a frustration that I didn’t have a voice.

Having to retire early to become a fulltime carer had also left me isolated from the social infrastructure that I had been used to for so long. I came from a busy and responsible job and felt that I was now somehow lacking in purpose and beginning to question my worth. For quite sometime I wandered around in the fog not quite sure which direction I was heading.

My first foray into the world of volunteering was to get involved with my local HD branch, primarily supporting my wife who had made friends with some fellow HD patients. After some time, I joined the committee and reluctantly stepped into the chair’s role when it looked as if no one else felt confident to do it and the branch was in danger of folding. That’s been very rewarding.

That started to open my eyes to the groups that were out there and especially ProDisability Poole and, through them, Carer Support Dorset. I began to discover that I wasn’t the only one with my problems and that they were a common thread in many conversations that I had with folks in the carer community.

I’m feel that I am able to articulate my issues – I know the system and I’m confident to engage with people at any level. But I know many who are not able to speak up on their own behalf. It seemed that there was some injustice in the system which is why I chose to get more involved in the various carer groups and start to raise carers concerns.

The Dorset Carer’s Reference Group gives us unpaid carers a great opportunity to get involved. We talk about key issues for carers, share our individual views and experiences of local NHS and carer services and this all helps to have an influence on the shape of new services being considered for the future.

There are lots of opportunities to engage in tasks and projects running alongside the group and I can get involved in as much or as little as the current carer demands on my time allows. It’s given me back that sense of purpose and I feel that I’m now making a valuable contribution.

However, I have limited experience of the world of caring, which is why it is so important that we have a wide range of carer interests represented.

I know that we are all busy but we need fresh blood with new eyes at the table to make our efforts truly worthwhile. I’m a great believer in the old adage that you reap what you sow. I hope that I’m doing my bit to contribute to a bountiful harvest! Perhaps you can help too.”