My work with Turning Point Theatre Company enabled me to research and write many plays about health and social issues. I remember one in particular: The Carers Project. It all started after I’d heard a radio programme about the plight of those caring for a friend, spouse of other member of their family on a full-time basis, often providing care for 24/7. There were also young carers, some as young as 7 years old, looking after a parent with a severe disability.
I contacted carer‘s groups and was invited to attend conferences and and meetings and interview carers to get a handle on their lives and the services that were available to help them. I had been commissioned to write an article in Contemporary Theatre Review, about my work usingForum Theatre with carers and health professionals. Information about my article can be found here: http://www.tandfonline.com/
I realised after a 3 month period of research that what I was about to do was a daunting task. I applied for funding and received several grants to write and produce a musical play called CARERS. The play toured the UK in 1999/2000 and was very successful. After each performance, usually to an audience of carers and professionals, there would be a discussion with a selected panel of people to answer questions stimulated by watching the play. These discussions were often volatile and placed the members of the panel on the spot many times as they struggled to answer proactively. The play was eventually adapted into another piece of theatre: THE HIGH WIRE OF NEED commissioned by Sandwell Social Services.
Supported by a company of 7 actors and crew, I ran a series of day long workshops over a period of 4 weeks. The workshops included a performance of the adapted play and a Forum Theatre session afterwards. The participants numbered 50/60 people from all health and social services departments. Joined-up thinking was the buzzword!
When I look back at the amount of work I and the company put into The Carers Project and I see how little things have changed since then, I must admit to feeling disappointed. The Carers Project reached so many people and at the time I felt we were really raising awareness and putting carer’s issues before the policy makers and professionals who had the power to make things better. The project won awards and went on to become a training video called TAKE CARE, which is still being used across the UK.
The UK government has promised more money for carers. Any one of us could become a full-time carer overnight. I hope the money is enough and will go some way into helping people look after their loved ones at home. But I doubt it.