Maureen Phillips knows all about the importance of local support and understanding. Around 2004, she set up the Kids’ and Carers’ Support Group to support carers and people living with disabilities in the towns and region of Kandos and Rylstone in NSW.
‘When you are a carer, and when you are tired and frustrated, having someone who can say “I know how that feels” can make such a difference.’
How did you get started?
‘My son Ted has autism, and when he was about to leave school someone from Life Skills came to talk about after school options’, says Maureen.
‘They mentioned that in one town they had raised money to set up a house to provide day activities, after-school care and respite for carers. I went and asked how they had done that, and the person said that first they set up a group.
‘So that’s what we did.’
What does the group do?
The group has 23 members, and meets every second Wednesday of the month at Maureen’s home. One of their first aims was to raise funds to buy and set up a house to provide disability services.
‘Coming from a small country town, if you want respite services you need to provide a fortnight’s notice – which just doesn’t work in an emergency! Our closest centre is in Mudgee, which is 60 kilometres away.
‘So we decided to establish the Kids’ and Carers’ Cottage. We worked together with the community to raise funds, and the house is now built and is to be painted and furnished. When it is finished it will be run by LifeSkillsPlus.’
Maureen is proud of what the carers group has achieved, but she emphasises that the group is about much more than just raising money.
‘Anybody can come to the group. We have carers looking after people with autism, children living with disability, people with dementia, or elderly parents. We support each other. We see each other every month, and anybody can ring me up anytime just to talk’, says Maureen.
‘As well as caring for my son, I also cared for my husband who had dementia, until he passed away 2 years ago. So I know all about how isolating and frustrating the carer role can be.
‘We support each other. We see each other every month, and anybody can ring me up anytime just to talk.’
What would you like to tell other carers?
‘I would do it all over again if I had the chance. You realise that while you are teaching them, they are teaching you. They teach you understanding and compassion. My daughters were always great defenders of Ted, and helped others to understand that some people are different.
‘Small towns may be short on services, but they are big on community. I would urge any carer in regional areas to make connections with other carers in their area, and see how a carer group can provide help and support.’