As a parent carer, I know that often the best advice, knowledge and information comes from other parent carers. However, I am not always in the mood for getting dressed and heading to some hall to meet other parents, and often when you do make the effort, the one parent you really wanted to see is having a day where they don’t want to get dressed and head to a hall either!
I was delighted therefore when MacIntyre launched their Let’s Come Together events. A virtual event, held on an evening, which means I get to sit on the sofa (PJs optional) to chat with other parents.
The breadth of knowledge and advice in the group, from the first event, has been invaluable.
What has been an unexpected bonus though are all the MacIntyre staff, who log in from home, and offer their knowledge and advice. It’s not something you see very often and it adds a really different vibe to the group. It truly is “Let’s come together”.
As the monthly events started to roll out, common themes were picked up: wills and trusts, siblings, finances, etc. As a parent, we know there’s a lot of information to find but often, the top five hits on google are not the most accurate. I was impressed therefore when Nicky Payne (the Family Support Manager) brought in guest speakers to answer questions and give advice; people who specialise in areas such as law, health, personal approaches, looking out for siblings, etc.
One of my favourite guests however, is Sarah Burslem – the CEO of MacIntyre. She comes to the group twice a year and takes questions directly from families. You don’t have to send the questions in advance so the easy ones can be cherry-picked either, you ask them as they come up. This is so rare – that direct contact with the person at the top of the chain – and it’s refreshing to know that it can be done. Parents feel heard and they also feel informed.
Each month, there’s a real mix of discussions. Some months have a theme when a guest speaker comes in (invited due to chats initiated by parents) and others are more casual where we chat about stuff happening to us that month, or we get the chance to feedback on things happening within MacIntyre.
Hosting it virtually brings real benefits. Anyone can attend, wherever they are in the country and whichever MacIntyre service their loved one uses. It’s always great to see those who have children at MacIntyre School chatting with parents whose loved ones have moved on from there, getting advice and suggestions about possibilities and potential issues to be prepared for.
The benefit of hosting it on the first Tuesday of every month means it is easy to remember when it is. It’s always a Tuesday, it’s always from 1930 to 2100 and you can pop in and out as you need to.
There’s always laughter, sometimes there are tears but it honestly feels like the least judgmental group I have attended (and I have been to a few!)
I think my favourite thing though is that when a question or concern gets raised but there’s no immediate response – usually, because someone who isn’t in the group has the answer. As a parent carer, I wish I had £1 for every time someone said ‘I’ll get back to you’ but didn’t. Let’s Come Together is different. Nicky always gets back to people and provides updates (with permission) with all of us at the next group.
The group also hasn’t got that feeling you get at some, where new faces are not always appreciated. New parents (and MacIntyre staff) are always welcomed and made to feel able to contribute or ask questions, it’s very relaxed.
The group really does help to lead the way that MacIntyre works with families. Instead of MacIntyre presuming to know what families want or need, they are allowing the families to tell them and then taking action where they can.
As the group grows, there is now talk of creating subgroups for those who live in residential care, those who have supported living, etc as we know that needs differ within those groups. It was rewarding though that the parent carers wanted to keep the larger original Let’s Come Together group going too because they all enjoy it so much. I think that says everything you need to know about Let’s Come Together.