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Stories of Change - Weavers

Author: Shagana Ehamparam
Published Date: 23 April 2015

At SIX we think it is important to tell stories where social innovation has impacted people’s lives for the better. Our Stories of Change series tells you the stories that inspire us from around the world.

Gill and her husband had been married for 57 years when her husband’s health started to deteriorate and he became dependent on her. It was demanding both physically and emotionally on Gill, who was finding it difficult to cope. Feeling guilty for her feelings, she often contemplated suicide.

Support and care for the ageing population is one of the many pressing social needs that innovators are working to address. However, in doing so, there is often neglect in addressing the support and care that is also needed by those caring for the ageing members.

Currently 2.6 million Australians have a caring role and a third of them are severely depressed. As three in five people in Australia will care for an ageing spouse, parent, friend, or relative, this is clearly a significant and overlooked group of individuals. That is why Weavers, an initiative started by TACSI in Australia in 2011, was a particular standout when it was introduced because it focused on just that - supporting the carers.

The program digresses from the usual approaches used by support groups and instead depends on a peer-to-peer model where people who are currently carers are matched to those who have experience being carers. The ones who are experienced can relate on the challenges faced as a carer and the type of support that is needed. It is not only about sharing stories but it’s about changing mindset; creating long-term behaviour change, using narrative therapy techniques, setting goals and adopting news ways to manage the caring journey.

Gill was referred to the Weavers program and she was matched up with Carla, who had experience caring for her husband who had gone through substance abuse, “The Beauty of Weavers is that it validated my experience and therefore, in validating it, could I be of help to someone else.” And Carla indeed helped someone else. By providing guidance and support, Gill started to feel like she could cope with her situation. “I feel like I can keep going.”

The Weavers program initially started with just 100 people in caring relationships in Unley and Salisbury but following the success of its prototype, the program has received the funding and support from the National Health and Medical Research Council, Helping Hand and Southern Cross Care for a larger scale test. This positive news means that hopefully more Gills and Carlas can get the support and care they need.

Image credit of TACSI

Read part two of this story with the TACSI perspective of Weavers.