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Online tool for carers in Coventry and Warwickshire unveiled to politicians

· New online support platform, developed by Warwick Medical School, at the University of Warwick, launched on 26 April for people with caring responsibilities in Coventry and Warwickshire

· Members of Parliament for Warwick and Leamington, and Kenilworth and Southam, met with academics and carers

· The Care Companion provides a unique, personalised experience for carers seeking help, advice and support – or just looking for ideas to take time out

· People who are actively involved in caring for a loved one, with personal experience of the highs and lows that can occur, influenced all aspects of the Care Companion

· Carers can register for the Care Companion at: www.carecompanion.org.uk

The University of Warwick's launch of Care Companion, an online platform for carers in Coventry and Warwickshire (from left): Gillian Grason Smith (Chair of the Carers' Panel), Matt Western MP, Professor Jeremy Dale (Project Leader), Amanda Cogley (Commissioning Support Officer for Warwickshire County Council) and Cllr Izzi Secombe (Leader of Warwickshire County Council). Credit: University of Warwick/Katie NeevesLocal carers have met with politicians to demonstrate a new tool to help them deal with the daily challenges of life when caring for friend or loved one.

The Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC MP Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and Member of Parliament for Kenilworth and Southam, and Matt Western MP, Member of Parliament for Warwick and Leamington, were present for the launch of the Care Companion on 26 April at Stratford Hospital. The Care Companion is a new online support tool developed by Warwick Medical School, at the University of Warwick, to support people with caring responsibilities across Warwickshire and Coventry.The Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC MP speaking at the launch of the Care Companion. Credit: University of Warwick/Katie Neeves

Providing vital information in an accessible format personalised to each carer’s responsibilities, it is free to use for residents of Coventry and Warwickshire and is supported by Warwickshire County Council, Coventry City Council, the NHS, and local support agencies and charities.

Around 11% of adults in Warwickshire have caring responsibilities for a family member, friend or neighbour. This can range from helping with day to day activities like washing and dressing, to coordinating medical appointments and arranging social activities. Often, they are caring for someone with long term conditions such as dementia or stroke, which are unlikely to improve over time.

Having caring responsibilities can be stressful and confusing. Research has shown that those being cared for see the care system as fragmented, often having to speak to a number of different services and taking on the burden of ‘joining the dots’ in their care. They can spend a great deal of time tracking down information in print and online; however this information can be poorly signposted or presented in an inaccessible fashion, and may not be directly relevant to the person who they are caring for. This often means that they miss out on vital information, or on opportunities to improve their care which might have a significant impact on their quality of life and that of the person who they care for. They may be missing out on essential benefits that they are entitled to.

The Care Companion helps with the emotional, social, day-to-day organisational and other demands of caring. It has been designed with people who care for older people in mind, with funding from Coventry and Rugby CCG, South Warwickshire CCG and Warwickshire County Council. Software development company Global Initiative is the technology partner for Care Companion and contributed funding through their Initiative Fund.

The platform ensures that carers have access to information, personalised to their individual circumstances, at the time that is needed. It helps them to stay on top of the process of coordinating appointments, vital contacts and other key data for the person who they care for, including keeping a diary of significant events that have affected them. This can all help ensure that the person being cared for gains optimal support from NHS and social care services, and that the carer remains resilient and confident in their caring role.

Anyone with caring responsibilities in Coventry and Warwickshire can register for the Care Companion at: www.carecompanion.org.uk

By registering and answering a small number of questions about themselves and the person that they care for, the Care Companion tailors the resources it provides to the carer, ensuring that they have the most relevant information they need a click away. The Care Companion also provides users with regular notifications; for example, to recommend users to look at new resources that may be relevant to their needs, or to consider seeking benefits to which they may be entitled. It is designed particularly with older people in mind, particularly those who may be less familiar with technology and apps.

Matt Western MP, Member of Parliament for Warwick and Leamington, said: “It is essential that every person receives the care and treatment they need to have the best possible quality of life. Yet the burden of co-ordinating care is currently falling to carers, leaving them to navigate a complicated system of different services. Over the past ten years successive real-term cuts to Health and Social Care services have also reduced the support available to carers, placing them under additional pressure.

“By providing carers with tailored information, the Care Companion will assist carers in accessing the services that are available to them and hopefully make their lives a little bit easier.”

The Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC MP Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and Member of Parliament for Kenilworth and Southam, who spoke at the event, said: “As residents of Coventry and Warwickshire, we are lucky to have access to this unique and innovative resource. I am sure that it will make a real difference to our carers – and by extension to those they care for – at the same time as assisting the NHS and social care services as they navigate the challenges of increasing demand. It would not have been possible without hard work and careful reflection on the part of stakeholders, and I commend them for it.”

Professor Jeremy Dale from Warwick Medical School at the University of Warwick, who has led the research that underpins the Care Companion, said: “Over a three year period, we have undertaken research into the needs of carers in Coventry and Warwickshire, and worked closely with carers on the development of the Care Companion. The Care Companion is a unique resource which our research suggests will be of considerable value to the huge numbers of people that have caring responsibilities. By helping carers to remain resilient and cope more effectively, it will improve the quality of lives of all the people that they care for – importantly, this will also help lessen the burden on overstretched NHS and social care services.”

Cllr Les Caborn, Warwickshire County Council's portfolio holder for Health and Social Care said: "With approximately 11% of Warwickshire’s adult population providing some sort of unpaid care every week, it is vital that carers can access the support they need to retain their own independence and wellbeing. Anything we can do to help make things a bit simpler for carers to support the people they are looking after is fantastic and the personalised nature of Care Companion makes it able to adapt to the requirements of individual carers rather than taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach.”

3 May 2019

Notes to editors:

Download photographs from the launch:

https://warwick.ac.uk/services/communications/medialibrary/images/april2019/d2976-49.jpg

Caption: The Rt Hon Jeremy Wright QC MP speaking at the launch of the Care Companion. Credit: University of Warwick/Katie Neeves

https://warwick.ac.uk/services/communications/medialibrary/images/april2019/d2976-97.jpg

Caption: The University of Warwick's launch of Care Companion, an online platform for carers in Coventry and Warwickshire (from left): Gillian Grason Smith (Chair of the Carers' Panel), Matt Western MP, Professor Jeremy Dale (Project Leader), Amanda Cogley (Commissioning Support Officer for Warwickshire County Council) and Cllr Izzi Secombe (Leader of Warwickshire County Council). Credit: University of Warwick/Katie Neeves

Call for volunteers

The team are looking for volunteers to demonstrate Care Companion in Coventry and Warwickshire, which will involve some travel to various organisations and groups. Mileage will be paid. Some administrative duties may also be required. Volunteers will ideally be available now and over the summer period.

Please contact carecompanion@warwick.ac.uk to register your interest, or for more information.

For media enquiries contact:

Peter Thorley

Media Relations Manager (Warwick Medical School and Department of Physics) | Press & Media Relations | University of Warwick
Email: peter.thorley@warwick.ac.uk 

Tel: +44 (0)24 761 50868

Mob: +44 (0) 7824 540863