After the success of the June meeting, where Chard hosted the Honiton and Ilminster carers groups, the July meeting was a lower key, general meeting where we discussed some of the successes and problems faced by our regular members, including the cost of living rises and some of the help available.

We touched on the government’s Benefit Calculator website, which is free to use and anonymous and has replaced the Benefits Adviser service. Specifically for carers is the Carers Allowance and Carers Credit but other, general, support is available through the website. The calculator will tell you about benefits you may be entitled to. There is also the Somerset Household Support Fund, which provides support for vulnerable households struggling to afford household essentials – including food, energy and white goods. Again, after a short assessment a decision can be made within two days (for food/utilities, etc) or five days (white good/beds, etc).

We had a guest speaker, Kirsty Jensen, the Home Library Services Manager. Replacing the Voluntary Service, volunteers are available to come and meet with the cared for to assess what sort of reading/media they might like and whether this needs to be, for example, large print, talking books, etc. Choices can be whittled down not just to specific authors or specific subjects and we gathered from talking to Kirsty that some of the requests can be very specific – books avoiding American grammar or ‘no sex’ - so not just a case of selecting some random title and hoping they suit (this selection is assisted by use of an app, though we still got the impression of someone bending over a desk checking page by page for any ‘Jilly Cooper’ type action). The volunteer will return with some suggested titles and spend some time getting to know the person to better personalise the choices; thus very much a befriending service as well as a practical method of widening horizons.

We touched on all the different ways the libraries have expanded to better serve the local populations in the digital age and at least one of our members is keen to explore the library digital health drop-in facilities to better understand how his iPad works and getting onto the GP website. Kirsty also touched on the ‘books on prescription’ recommendations, the iPad loans and the digital skills courses. Library members can also experience the BorrowBox app for the loan of eBooks and eAudiobooks.

Looking forward, plans for Chard Carers Group this summer include a trip to Hornsbury Mill during August for a cream tea and a future trip to Bicton Park Gardens, with its 64 acres, near Budleigh Salterton, in September.

Our thanks to Numatic who this summer are helping Chard Carers Support Group plus MIND with some funding. They are holding a Family Fun Day on 20 August at Chard Rugby Club and we are hoping to have a stall there during the day so that people can find out more about carers support and be signposted to areas of help. for more information and we hope to see you there.

Finally, in the report last month we did not mention our lovely sponsors who contributed to the cost of the June buffet event. A big (albeit belated) thank you to Cricket St Thomas Golf Club, Seniors Section; Holland and Barrett, Chard; Lidl, Chard; Tesco, Chard; The Chair Ladies, Ilminster; and West Country Butchers, Chard for their financial support enabling us to host the Ilminster and Honiton groups in June.

The next meeting of Chard Carers Support Group will be on Monday 8th August, 10.30-12.30 at the English Martyrs Church Hall, 2 East Street, Chard TA20 1EP. All carers welcomed. Contact Pat on 01460 220026 or Kate on 01460 394331 for more information.