Supporting individual’s health and wellbeing, especially during the global pandemic, has been so vital. The Essex Local Delivery Pilot have been able to help Carers FIRST to provide physical activity sessions for their carers, to help boost positive mental health and wellbeing.

Carers FIRST support those who look after a relative or friend who due to ill health, physical or mental illness, disability, frailty, or addiction cannot manage without their support. It is estimated there are over 145,000 people in Essex providing care for a relative of friend. Advice, respite, and advancing public awareness of the needs of carers and their families, has been the driving force.

The Essex Local Delivery Pilot team were able to help set up online pilates and relaxation classes for carers, through their microgrant funding programme. After conducting a poll with carers in the Colchester Borough, Carers FIRST were able to understand the interest and need for these sessions, and via their support groups, they have been able to promote this class across Essex.

Initially they will be providing 12 sessions to ensure the carers have the chance to develop and embed positive habits into their lives. The classes consist of 45 minutes of Pilates, followed by 15 minutes of relaxation exercises and are being delivered by a trained instructor who has already committed to helping establish these sessions.

Carers UK (2020) reported that carers face a big challenge around the negative impact of COVID-19 on their physical and mental health. It is the Essex Local Delivery Pilots’ hope that this activity will give local carers a break from caring responsibilities and empower them to look after themselves, learn new skills, build up a network of peer support, and reduce feelings of social isolation.

Jenny Goodson, Community Inclusion Coordinator for Essex, said: “We started the session with introductions, and it was great to see carers smiling afterwards.  The session was recorded, and Marisa (the instructor) has emailed it to me to forward to the carers so they can enjoy doing the session in their own time and can continue to repeat the exercises until their session next month.”

Carers First are confident that when COVID restrictions are lifted they will be able to offer classes on a face to face basis as well as continuing with the online classes giving all carers the choice and flexibility of attending a class.