*IMPORTANT UPDATE - 20th January 2022* In line with recent Government advice we have updated our guidance on the use of face coverings in college. The details of which can be found here

Abingdon & Witney College win national award for carers support

8th Feb 2021

Abingdon & Witney College have a won a prestigious industry award for its work in delivering a specialist course provision and support programme for those caring for others in Oxfordshire.

During the 2020/21 Association of Colleges Beacon Awards virtual award ceremony on Monday, the College discovered it had won the RCU Award for Support for Students for it’s A Carer’s Journey programme.

Developed in partnership with the charity Action for Carers, the programme helps a carer gain confidence in their role as well as offer an opportunity to take time away from this role and access workshops and short courses that are designed to promote their wellbeing.

The AoC assessors, who visited the College in early January, were impressed with the “innovative and well thought out programme”, run by “highly experienced and motivated staff”, that had “its learner best interests” at its heart.

Every year more than two million people in the UK become carers. One in eight adults in the UK is a carer, although, because many people are looking after family, friends or relatives, they don’t necessarily recognise themselves as a carer.

The project provides a mix of workshops and short courses, with themes including mindfulness, first aid, art for relaxation, and yoga, and learners are free to follow the entire ‘journey’, or to pick and choose courses.

It has also been able to respond to changing circumstances and adapt to meet carers’ needs. At the start of lockdown due to Covid-19, it became apparent that carers were more isolated than ever as local support services minimised visits. Action for Carers paid for a Zoom subscription and, in partnership with the College, designed a programme of online learning that was offered from May 2020.

Participation was greater than anticipated and following feedback from carers, a wider online programme is being offered to July 2021.

Michelle Evans, Development Manager at Action For Carers, said:

“We delighted to win this award for supporting carers.

Caring will touch all of us at some point in our lives. Right now there are estimated around 13.6 million carers in the UK, saving the state more than a hundred billion pounds each year.

Caring is such an important part of life. No matter what race, religion or society, caring will cross most of our paths at some point.

Carers are the glue that keeps families together. Whether caring for a disabled child, partner, parent or even a friend, the way they unselfishly dedicate themselves to enabling loved ones to get the most out of life is truly awe-inspiring.

While most carers would say the pleasures and rewards of caring are completely fulfilling and they wouldn’t have it any other way, there are often challenges and hardships to be faced.

Often a carer is so focused on helping their friend or loved one that they pay no attention to their own needs. The support ‘A Carers Journey’ offers allows carers to consider their own wellbeing and not to feel guilty that they have to also think of themselves.”

Kay Francis, Head of Carers Support Services at Action for Carers, said:

“We are so proud to be a part of this fantastic achievement. Good partnership is always key and I think that shone through this whole project.

The commitment OAL has had given to the carers in Oxfordshire has been significant, and so valuable to these people in our society that are so often overlooked leaving them feeling isolated and hidden. This is also such a great opportunity to get our message and model out into Oxfordshire and beyond, and we’re excited to be taking this forward together.”

Overall, nearly 500 carers have joined the programme, with 99% achieving and completing their course.

On one of the bereavement courses, 100% of learners said they felt less stressed with improved mental wellbeing. 60% stated they felt less isolated. One commented: ‘It has given me so much I can take forward to help process my grief and to have hope in the future while acknowledging my loss.’

Heidi Jordison, Head of Faculty for Oxfordshire Adult Learning, said:

“We are absolutely delighted being the winners of the AoC Beacon Award. Our 'Carers' Journey' programme in partnership with Action for Carers is a unique and powerful suite of courses that provides invaluable support for unpaid carers in the community. Sharing this concept and our experience with others in the education sector is something we are very much looking forward to. Carers are unsung heroes of society and we aim to use our achievement to raise their profile especially during the pandemic.

I am also immensely proud of the incredible partnership between Action for Carers and OAL and I am in awe of the invaluable service Action for Carers deliver in the community. Here’s to many more successful years of working together.”

Sue Funge, who first set up the programme in partnership with Action for Carers and continues to monitor and evaluate A Carer’s Journey, said:

“Having launched this programme with Action for Carers in January 2018, I am very proud of what we have achieved to date.

It has demonstrated the huge benefits of partnership working and has helped us to reach unpaid carers who deserve this support. It offers them a chance to take some time out and do something for themselves. It is fitting to call the programme 'a journey' as that is exactly what it is when we become a carer for a loved one. It is challenging, isolating and all absorbing, so this programme can represent a real lifeline for carers and help them to manage their role day to day.”