16 March 2023
Simone is the sole carer of three children – all of whom have very different needs. At the end of last year, she began to feel isolated, lonely and that she “had been forgotten about”. Her life revolved around what her children needed, but this meant she neglected her own needs.
In October 2022, Simone was referred to CNWL’s Check in & Chat service by Milton Keynes Talking Therapies.
“I was having some Talking Therapy,” she said. “And that’s how I was made aware of Check in & Chat. At that time, the therapy wasn’t quite right for me.”
Check in & Chat is a friendly, compassionate and supportive service for individuals who may be experiencing loneliness, isolation, exhaustion, poor mental health or who just feel they need a listening ear. The service is for unpaid carers of people who are accessing a CNWL service. They could be family or a friend.
Simone was initially apprehensive about using the service, worrying about opening up to a stranger about her life.
She said: “It’s the uncertainty of who I’d talk to and if I’d be able to talk to them. Would I make proper use of the service? I was nervous about it.”
I’m usually good at holding it all in, so it was good to know that I had that time where I could talk freely without being judged or feeling like I was being observed. - Simone
Linda Guerrero, CNWL’s Check in & Chat Manager, is well aware of the concerns people may have when they access the service for the first time.
“The individual’s needs are always considered and taken care of,” Linda said.
“We call everyone after their referral to explain what the service is, ask about preferences for male or female chatter and reassure them about their call’s confidentiality and the role of the volunteer ‘Chatter’ she will be matched with.”
Once a referral is received, calls generally start quickly. Indeed, Simone felt that there was a quick turn around once she had spoken to Linda.
She was matched with a male ‘Chatter’ and, after dispelling some initial nerves, she came away from the first call “a lot more relaxed and comfortable about the future chat sessions.”
Check in & Chat Volunteer Chatters are warm and friendly volunteers. Chatters have been assessed on their suitability for the role by CNWL Volunteer Team and have gone through all recruitment checks such as DBS, references and Occupational Health assessments. To be able to perform their role to the best of their abilities, Chatters receive a one-day training course co-produced by the CNWL Recovery College.
Chatters are then ready to be matched with a carer, whom they listen to with compassion and openness, taking a genuine interest in the person’s wellbeing. Carers can speak to the Chatter in confidence about any of their worries and feelings.
For Simone, one of the real benefits of Check in & Chat is having a regular booked time where she can talk to someone she trusts and can let it all out with.
“This is not usually me,” she said. “I’m usually good at holding it all in, so it was good to know that I had that time where I could talk freely without being judged or feeling like I was being observed.
“As a carer free time is really limited, I’m really good at managing and doing everything for my kids, just to have that time every week was really nice.”
“It’s very hard to remember yourself sometimes as a carer. You are always talking to professionals who are always asking about the children and it’s so nice to have someone ask about me.
“When I’m with the professionals, I do feel sometimes ‘What about me?’. This service is beneficial it is solely for you and not about the children.”
The fact that it is a voluntary service and the chatter showed such empathy and understanding they are dedicated and caring. I think it’s a vital service. - Simone
Simone found that the consistency of the service was also a real bonus.
She added: “It is always the same person and they got to know me well. With professionals, it may not be the same people you see. There are so many positives in speaking to the same person who gets to know you and your situation.”
“We laughed and talked about everything. I looked forward to each weekly chat. I didn’t have to think or prepare what I was going to talk about and there was no pressure about what we chatted. It made no difference that my chatter was a man.”
And, after speaking to her Chatter, Simone felt comfortable enough to return to Talking Therapies.
“I don’t think I would have pursued it without the Chatter’s support and encouraging me to go back to the GP,” she said. “It was great to have that little boost to help me take the step.”
So, what would Simone say to someone thinking about accessing Check in & Chat? She is emphatic.
“If you’re offered the service, take it!”
“Even if you’re unsure or apprehensive, you really need that time for yourself. Give it a go, if it doesn’t work out at least you’ve tried. You’ll be doing something for yourself rather than constantly doing things for others. Be open minded about the situation and allow it to progress.”