Embracing stories: celebrating carers’ experiences and shaping support

photo of a storyteller speaking to group

Last Monday, we came together with NHS England to celebrate Georgie Steele’s powerful storytelling work. The aim of the project was to empower carers in Oxfordshire to share their personal stories, helping them connect with others who have had similar experiences.

Supporting Georgie’s storytelling is just one part of the work we do for our joint project with Oxfordshire County Council called Carers Voices. Our Voices work centres around the promotion of opinions and experiences of unpaid carers in Oxfordshire. By promoting this feedback to the people who make the important decisions, we’re able to allow the lived experiences of unpaid carers to shape the future of their own support.

We’d like to thank all the unpaid carers in Oxfordshire that contributed throughout the project. We hope you found the stories to be just as impactful as we did.

“It’s been such a privilege to work with unpaid carers from all over Oxfordshire, offering them opportunities to shape and tell their true-life stories.”

Georgie Steele

We greatly appreciate the courage taken by those who decided to share their personal stories with us. Some were thought-provoking, some moving, and others frustrating.

What is storytelling?

At this point, you might be wondering what storytelling is exactly. Well, it’s a powerful tool that helps us express our thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a way that’s tangible and impactful. The idea is that it helps people with different perspectives and experiences get their voices heard. Rather than filling out feedback forms, or completing surveys, storytelling can evaluate the successes and failures of organisations, systems, and processes in much greater detail.

During the event, we had the privilege of listening to carers who generously shared their lived experiences, offering invaluable insights into how they support those that they care for.

What did we learn?

The stories emphasised some key experiences that unpaid carers in Oxfordshire share. From the significance of both giving and receiving peer support from other carers to the acknowledgement of strength in yourself, it’s obvious that strong support, both internally and externally, is central to the needs of unpaid carers.

Another common feeling that seemed to be shared throughout the room was generally being underwhelmed by the current Health and Social Care system. A system where carers feel that they aren’t treated as individuals with varying needs and have difficulty finding a professional that is the right fit for their family’s situation.

One person told us of the unprecedented access these services have into your life, they know everything about you and your situation. Yet, you feel that you’re being kept in the dark. ‘It’s like everyone can see in but you can’t see out’.

How are we going to use these stories?

We want to use what we’ve learnt to shape our service in a way that better serves the carers of Oxfordshire and advocates for change in the wider system, with the aim that every single unpaid carer can get the support they need.

Looking ahead, we plan to continue supporting Georgie with her great work. Our aim is to translate the stories shared by carers into constructive feedback that will improve the carer support network.

Georgie Steele leading her session
Carer telling a story
Man telling story