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07th March 2014

The Triangle of Care

The Triangle of CareI heard from a carer of someone with mental health problems last week about an initiative called the triangle of care, launched by the Carers Trust in 2010. The concept is straightforward, an equal partnership between the Service User, the carer, and the professional. The model of the Triangle of Care is being adopted by an increasing number of mental health services who are launching their own examples of good practice in working alongside carers. The Triangle of Care guide has recently launched a second edition called Carers Included: A Guide to Best Practice in Mental Health Care in England. You can read more about the project and look at the guide at the Carers Trust website at:

Who are the carers?

Just to make clear what we are talking about here, when we use the term ‘carers’ we are usually talking about informal carers, that is family members, spouses, children, other relations or close friends who provide much of the day to day care and support for the person, and probably have done since they developed mental health problems. And whilst we are discussing terminology, carer is a term that does need to be handled sensitively. People’s loved ones often don’t recognise themselves as a carer, because the word implies a sort of dependency, when carers rightly view their relationship as being a loving and mutually supportive one, and professionals need to be aware of that. Having said that, without that ‘informal care’ there would be a lot more reliance on the professionals caring role. That’s why I think this concept of a triangle (with equal sides!) is a helpful one.

Breaking down the barriers

The concept of the triangle of care is quite simple, it aims to make carers equal partners in the plan of care for the person receiving support from professional mental health services. Your reaction might be, well that just sounds like common sense and good practice, but for those whose experience of mental health services goes back many years, it wasn’t always the case. Often in the past, carers were excluded from the relationship between professional services and the Service User. Thankfully the culture has changed, carers are now recognised as having expert knowledge of the person, and able to inform professionals when they note any warning signs when the person is becoming unwell. The barrier of ‘patient confidentiality’ is also being removed now that professionals are realising that there’s no medical confidentiality being broken if the carer tells the person’s doctor some of their concerns. The watchword of the Triangle of Care is being ‘carer aware’. The guide to best practice includes a self-assessment tool to work out how ‘carer aware’ you and your service are.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Topics: Mental Health

David Beckingham

Mental Health Specialist

David Beckingham is a self-employed independent trainer, and is also an honorary lecturer with the University of Cumbria. His professional background is as a social worker and he has worked in care homes for older people in Cumbria. David’s main area of expertise is in mental health. Prior to becoming self-employed he was a Staff Development and Training Officer with Cumbria County Council, both commissioning and delivering training to mental health workers and others in statutory and independent sector organisations. Read more

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