Mandy Bell's Story
Whilst working for Gloucestershire Young Carers, Mandy Bell wanted to increase the quantity and quality of support for families - particularly children - affected by parental mental illness. Less than a year after an 'off the cuff' suggestion from one of her Trustees, Mandy had been awarded a Fellowship and was on a flight to Australia, keen to see for herself the pioneering work being undertaken there to improve the lives of families in such circumstances.
Mandy met with strategists, practitioners, parents and, best of all, with the children themselves. She returned full of ideas on how to improve communication within families in relation to mental illness, as well as how to address the needs of children and improve access to information for professionals.
As a direct result of the Fellowship, Gloucestershire Young Carers and the 2gether NHS Foundation Trust have worked in partnership in order to develop and deliver systems, processes and services which meet the needs of children of parents with a mental illness. The project, funded by the Department for Education and managed by Carers Trust, aims to develop a sustainable whole family approach in statutory mental health services. A Specialist Family Support Worker works between the two organisations, using learning from the Australian experience and applying it to inpatient and community services delivery within the Trust.
Information gathered on her Fellowship has substantially contributed to the development of new resources. ‘Safe, Sorted and Supported' is a child friendly crisis plan for young carers, launched on Carers Rights Day 2012. It can be viewed on the Gloucestershire Young Carers website.
Also on the website is a resource for practitioners which is informed by the COPMI (Children of Parents with a Mental Illness) website in Australia.
New developments for 2014/2015 included the delivery of a six-session programme of intervention for all family members when a parent is accessing mental health services.
Mandy has also been invited to speak at conferences in both England and Ireland and to participate in a seminar relating to practice with and for young carers and their families from an international perspective.