Sharing is Caring

05 February 2020

As part of ‘Time to Talk Day’, Sally Simpson, who co-chairs Leonardo’s Carers Network, talks about her experience as a parent carer, how involvement in various support groups helps carers like her, and the importance of being able to share experiences and how you feel.

I’m a single mum to two boys, aged 13 and 9. My eldest has a diagnosis of severe Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Borderline Asperger’s and a sleep disorder, which means I drink a lot of coffee! Workwise, I am an Assistant Accountant in the finance team at Leonardo’s Yeovil site, and have been with the company for the past 20 years.

Volunteering and supporting other parents

Outside of work, during my spare time, I run a community support group – ADHD Yeovil – with three other mums. We help parents living with or supporting those (children) who have ADHD and associated conditions such as Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Asperger’s and Autism, to name but a few. The main focus is on ADHD since there is no specific support out there for this, which is one of the reasons why I volunteer.

As a group, ADHD Yeovil provides:

  • Information to parents to help them access services that they need
  • Parental support, suggestions and tips
  • A safe place to vent
  • Organised activities for children to play in a ‘safe’ environment

We also organise training and speakers to visit, which has included bringing the first-of-its-kind conference to the local area to help inform professionals in education and those who work in the care sector of the condition and how to interact with an ADHD child. And on top of all that, we have recently begun providing insight and training to schools and colleges in the area.

In addition to my involvement with ADHD Yeovil, I volunteer for the Somerset Parent Carer Forum as a parent representative. This allows me to visit support groups and attend local authority meetings to ensure parents of children with additional needs and disabilities are being heard and have access to the services they need. The Forum itself is a fabulous organisation that delivers training for parents and volunteers in a multitude of useful subjects such as IPSEA (Independent Provider of Special Education Advice) legal training.

Caring for the carers

Research indicates that being a carer of any type can be incredibly rewarding. Yet it can also lead to isolation and a lack of connection. With this in mind, Time to Talk Day provides a great opportunity to highlight the importance of carers not only focusing on the people they are caring for, but also the need for them to look after themselves and ensure they have the support to protect their own health and mental wellbeing? Self-care and a network of people around you are paramount to this.

If you are travelling on an aeroplane and the oxygen masks deploy, you put yours on first before helping the person in your care. The same applies if you are caring for someone. Making sure that you are well and in a positive state first will help you meet the needs of the person you are caring for.

Saying ‘yes’ is a positive step

On a personal level, self-care in the beginning was difficult; initially I was supporting a husband with mental health issues, a child with additional needs, plus a younger child too – and then I found myself on my own. Realising I needed to do something to keep going – to get me through additional appointments for various diagnoses, medical check-ups and therapies – I had a year of saying ‘yes’ to new experiences. I took courses, I went out, I travelled a little, I got facials, had guitar lessons and bought a crazy Boxer dog named Henry (clearly life wasn’t challenging enough!). All this was achievable thanks to the help of my network, my friends and family around me, because I also learnt to say ‘yes’ when they offered their help.

Based on my own experience, I would really encourage carers to get out there and find groups that they can join – it really does make all the difference. The group that we run is very informal, meeting once a month for breakfast and a chat at a supported café (run by young adults with additional needs) and once for a drink (not always alcohol!) at a hotel, all of which is designed to put our carers at ease. We do provide information and signpost to services, but we also provide a friendly network of people who understand and that is so important!

Support from Leonardo’s Carers Network

Within Leonardo, the Carers Network has been established to provide support to its employees. It is definitely a great feeling to know that you are not alone and also to know that you can talk to someone about support and to seek it when you need it.

Having a diverse and inclusive workforce has huge benefits to a company. We each bring a different skill set to our employment. Leonardo has enabled me to keep working via its flexible working arrangements and my managers are very supportive in letting me chop and change my situation if I need to dash off for a paediatric appointment, for example.

Creating an inclusive and supportive environment through Network Groups

Creating an inclusive and supportive environment through Network Groups

At Leonardo, our network groups are the place for like-minded people and their allies to come together, help shape engagement and lead associated educational initiatives with all our people to deliver an inclusive and consistent experience for everyone in the UK.