In the week of Carers Rights Day (November 23) we caught up with Matthew McKenzie, one of the speakers at this year’s SLaM (South London & Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust) Family and Carer Listening event (November 20).
Matthew is a carer’s activist who is involved in shaping Triangle of Care at NHS organisations, has a focus on Patient Carer Race equality and is a Cygnet Carer ambassador. He has recently set up his London cancer carer forum and looks forward to Carers Rights Day.
What does Carers Rights Day mean to you?
For me Carers Rights day means awareness of carers rights. It is not just for organisations to be aware of carer rights, but also for carers themselves. All too often people just carry on and cope. This is not good for the carer or for the person they care for. People need to be aware of what can help them.
Where are we as carers?
It depends on who you are caring for. I have written a number of books to highlight the situation mental health carers face. One of the books is “Experiencing mental health caregiving – Unpaid Carers”.
Those caring for someone with mental ill health face different challenges compared to other forms of care. Generally the situation for carers is not good. Coming off the pandemic highlighted the health and social care need for unpaid carers. The population in the country is getting older and more people are living longer, so the strain on health and social care is complex, which means the system has to rely on carers.
How has your year been, you are so busy… where do you find the time to do all you do?
It is true, I have been very busy. I try and juggle all my carer groups and have just started my London Cancer carer forum, which has very strong links. It is growing slowly, but I get a lot of help from NHS England and also from Cancer Alliance. I also have a focus on mental health carers, which gets support from Carers Trust triangle of care policies.
Last but not least I have a focus on ethnic minority carers both with NHS England and Carers UK.
Read about Matthew’s book here.
As well as writing poetry ?
I do still write poetry when I get the time and I am starting a carers poetry circle .
Here is a Carers Rights Day poem for carers.
You are a Cygnet Carer ambassador, can you explain?
I am one of the three Cygnet Carer ambassadors for the UK. Cygnet is one of the largest providers of private health and social care. It is only fair that through lived experience we promote Cygnet values to support unpaid carers who lack that carers ’network. Cygnet are taking up the challenge to develop Triangle of Care standards at some of their hospital sites. This means a lot of auditing and engagement. In the end this all helps develop a stronger relationship to many of Cygnet carers who want to be valued.
What are the main points you want to share at the Carers ’Listening event? And how important is this event to carers?
The main things I want to promote at the listening event is that carers need to connect and network. Carers should collaborate as much as possible as I will collaborate with another carer Jo Lambert with some poetry. I will also promote NHS England’s focus for unpaid carers at the event.
I urge carers to keep up to date on what is available for them on Carers Rights Day. See below some of Matthew’s links
London cancer carer forum
November London Cancer carer forum
Cygnet Carer Page
The State of Caring 2023
Read here Carers UK’ State of Caring Report 2023 that outlines some of the major issues highlighted by carers in the past year.