This post was first published by Croydon Advertiser on 20/12/2018.
This Croydon lifeline is giving hope to devoted carers who look after loved ones
We meet Sandra Jones and Patrick Buckley who are getting much-needed help at the Carers Support Centre.
After finding out her young son has mental health problems and battling with depression herself, the Carers Support Centre was a lifeline for one Croydon mum.
Sandra Jones, 42, has been coming to the centre in George Street for the past three years.
Here she gets help with filling in forms and a break from looking after her youngest son, who is two-years-old.
But most importantly, she says, it is a place where she can come for a cup of tea and a chat with other people who understand her situation.
This month Sandra’s seven-year-old son – who is partially blind – was diagnosed with ADHD and mental health issues.
She said: “It has been very, very hard. So hard it has put me into depression. “Without the carer centre I would be so much worse.
“They support me if I have housing problems or finance problems or have any forms to fill out. They are always willing to help and are so supportive.”
As well as help with forms, the single mum of three – her daughter is 13 – sees her visits to the centre as a chance to take a break.
“It was difficult with my son but no one was listening to me and saying that there is nothing wrong with him. We now know he is partially blind.
“The carers centre fought for me and now I am getting the help I need.
“Sometimes when I go into depression I can just bring my baby here and talk to other people
“It is a big, big help to come here and talk to other people like me who have the same problems and learn from them.”
It was on her twice-weekly visits to the centre she met Patrick Buckley.
The 79-year-old has two adult children with autism and Asperger’s and started coming to the centre after the death of his wife two years ago.
Patrick looks after his 43-year-old son at their home in East Croydon .
He first visited the Carer Support Centre for group bereavement counselling and now often comes to the centre for a cup of tea and chat with other carers.
“With the counselling it was very good to see a different perspective,” he said.
“I come in now on Mondays and Wednesdays. I like hearing other people’s stories and how they get on.
“There was a lady in here the other day who had been diagnosed with dementia – She was explaining to me how she deals with it.
“You get to hear other people’s experiences and understand how they manage things.”
According to the most recent census data one in 10 people in Croydon are carers, and Sandra thinks a lot of them could be supported by the George Street centre.
She said: “When I come here they tell me to relax and they pay attention to the baby, that’s the only time I get to have a break.
“I think people should know that they can come here and they can get support.
“They are very kind people and they take time to listen to you.”
The Carers Support Centre is run by the Carers Information Service and is also home to a other organisations helping carers, including Healthwatch Croydon, Parents in Partnership and the Young Carers Service.
And it is funded by The Whitgift Foundation and Croydon Council.
Communications officer for the centre, Amy Deakin, said there are currently more than 6,000 people registered on its books.
“Some people are directed here from other agencies but we find people sometimes just come in off the street,”she said.
“We try and be the one stop shop for carers in the borough.
“We offer drop in advice on anything about their caring role – including emotional support, a bereavement support group, special advice surgeries and debt advice.
“We also do workshops, things like managing stress or sleep deprivation and first aid.”
The centre opposite the George Street tram stop is open from Monday-Friday 10am-4pm.
A carers cafe, which is staffed by volunteers, is open from 10.30am-12.30pm on weekdays.
Find out more at www.carersinfo.org.uk.