A CHARITY which supports carers across Coventry is celebrating 40 years of helping people.
What began with a £10,000 donation from the makers of the iconic television series Crossroads for a pilot scheme has grown into one of the UK’s biggest organisations supporting carers in the UK.
Our reporter Steve Hayes spoke to Penny Collard, the head of the local branch of Crossroads Care, to find out more about the organisation’s work.
FORTY years ago a young disabled man called Noel Crane wrote a letter to the producers of the television show Crossroads.
Noel, from Rugby, was moved to write after seeing a storyline involving a character called Sandy, the son of the show’s matriarch Meg Richardson, who had been paralysed in a car accident.
Noel’s mother had become his full-time carer after he was left wheelchair-bound following a swimming accident.
The programme makers spoke to Noel after he indicated his own experiences were somewhat different to the character’s.
His feedback was then used in subsequent episodes and the programme’s producer then approached the network to fund a pilot project to help carers in Noel’s home town. Crossroads Care was born.
Penny Collard is the chief executive of the Coventry & Warwickshire branch of Crossroads Care, which now incorporates the founding Rugby branch, and has worked with the organisation for nearly 25 years.
“In the early days it was more about getting carers onto the radar,” Penny, who picked up an MBE for services to disabled people this year, explains.
“The word ‘carer’ wasn’t used back then, it was just assumed that people who cared for a loved one just go on with it.
“Crossroads Care was initially a small group who went out to support people in Rugby.
“It all just went from there. The founders really made the pilot work and that is why it has grown to be what is has today.”
From humble beginnings grew a network of 76 Crossroads organisations which now employ 5,000 people and provide crucial support to many thousands of carers up and down the UK.
The Coventry and Warwickshire branch of Crossroads Care, which like all branches is now part of the Carers Trust, administered nearly 190,000 hours of care to more than 1,500 people last year, supporting more than 2,000 carers in the process.
It now offers training, respite and a raft of other support for carers across the region.
“Caring is a full-time job for many of the people we work with and it can be extremely challenging,” continues Penny.
“Even a small amount of help can make a huge difference and help a carer and the person they care for stay independent and happy for as long as possible.
“It is fantastic that carers are finally on the map, people in authority are talking about them and recognising how important it is they get the support they need.
“People who care for a loved one do fantastic work and ask for no recognition. But ultimately we must remember they are saving authorities a lot of money so it is vital for them and our society that they get the support they need.
“There is still a long way to go and we will continue to push for more initiatives to support carers and those they care for.
“We are so delighted that Crossroads Care is still going strong all these years on.”
For more information about Crossroads Care visit www.crossroadscw.org.uk or call 02476 258 816.
Sandy and the Crossroads cast.
Below: Penny Collard receiving her MBE earlier this year.