Learner Spotlight: Wendy Smith

Sibyl Adam, our Engagement and Fundraising Officer, had the pleasure of chatting to Wendy Smith, creator of Carers Union, a new grassroots organisation bringing together carers with advocacy and mediation in mind.

Wendy was a learner with one of our projects in Highland, where conversations with Learning Coordinator Jan Harrison, as well as partner organisations and other carers in the area, led to the formation of Carers Union.

Graphic of a zoom call on a laptopWendy asked for support from Lead as she wanted to become involved in social inclusion advocacy work and volunteering, so she could address carers’ needs in the North of Scotland. In weekly sessions, Wendy worked with Jan to discuss her ideas, research social enterprises, build a network of contacts in relevant organisations, build her CV to build confidence in order to apply for jobs.

‘I am very proud of her progress and inspired by her determination’ – Jan

Wendy has cared for her disabled son, Callum, for 20 years and has had extensive experience navigating education, health and social care and local authority structures so she can get the best support for Callum. Her awareness of the limits of provision for carers, and lack of infrastructure available, has given Wendy a determination to work with other carers to advocate for their rights and the rights of the people they care for. It was inspiring to hear Wendy’s story and learn more about Carers Union.

There are around 1200 carers in Highland. There can be many challenges facing them, not least access to financial support and advocacy when there are disagreements between families and local authorities regarding support. Wendy believes it is unfair that carers of disabled children are so often written off and expected not to have the same life goals as others. The daily stress and poor mental health experienced by some carers became even more apparent with Covid-19.

‘Being a carer can feel like living in a pandemic 24/7’ – Wendy

Wendy also sits on the NHS Highland Health and Social Care board, where she advocates for carers from her own lived experience, sharing her view on how budget cuts can affect the most vulnerable.

‘I’ve always wanted to do something but I started pulling everything together at the beginning of the pandemic’ – Wendy

Graphic of person holding a placard that says Carer Union

With support and mentorship from the Social Enterprise Academy, Wendy began Carers Union. This initiative is in its infancy, ran on Wendy’s passion and drive. Wendy is interested in whether Carers Union can use a co-production, mediation model to support carers with time/solution focused mediation with local authorities and social care when issues arise.

Wendy is bringing together carers in-person and online to create a constitution for Carers Union to make it formally a non-profit organisation. She is looking for people with specialist skills to support Carers Union to progress these ideas.

Background in business, law, finance or marketing? Are you a carer or committed to carers’ rights? Please get in touch with Wendy for information about the next meeting to support this important work at wendy_smith11@hotmail.com.

Carers Union will hopefully be soft launching later in the year. We thank Wendy for speaking to us and wish her and Carers Union the best for the future.

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