Features

Care in the community

06 June 2019

CEO of Carers UK Helen Walker explains how you can help connect unpaid carers to the support they need this Carers Week.

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Caring for a loved one is part of the human condition; we want to do our best to support the people close to us. Caring will touch all of our lives at some point, whether we take on a caring role for a family member or friend, or are cared for ourselves.

For many people, caring is just ‘something you do’. So if you don’t see yourself as a carer you are unlikely to consider asking for practical support

In the UK more than 6.5 million of us are looking after a loved one with a disability, mental or physical illness, or someone who needs extra help as they grow older (Carers UK, 2015).

The amount and level of care varies: for some it’s round-the-clock, or just for a few hours a week, in our own homes or at a loved one’s house at the other end of a motorway.

Caring can be incredibly rewarding, but we know that for many carers it can be challenging taking care of their own wellbeing, as well as caring for someone else. It’s also the case that many people don’t initially recognise their caring role, which gets in the way of them accessing support that could help take some of the pressure off.

As we aim to raise awareness of caring this Carers Week from 10 to 16 June, I hope community practitioners will continue to give vital support to carers, helping to put them in touch with useful information and assistance, which can help them continue caring without losing sight of themselves.

The impact of caring

Without the right support, caring can have a huge impact on a person’s finances, work, lifestyle and their health and wellbeing.

At Carers UK we know that caring can take a huge toll on physical and mental health, with 61% of carers reporting that their physical health has been negatively affected by caring, and 72% saying that their mental health has been made worse (Carers UK, 2018).

Having significant caring responsibilities can make it really difficult to stay in work. Millions of people manage to juggle paid work with caring, but it can be a stressful balancing act. Our research showed that as many as 600 people leave work every day to care for a loved one, and that has huge consequences for their financial security in the short and long term (Carers UK, 2019).

Young carers may find it more difficult to pursue their education, with absence from the classroom or being late, poor concentration and low attainment getting in the way. Carers aged 16 and 18 are less likely to be in education, training or employment (Carers Trust; Family Action, 2012). Finding the time to nurture other relationships with family and friends can also be very challenging to do alongside caring, and carers tell us that a lack of understanding from friends or family can make this even harder.

Barriers to support

For many people, caring is just ‘something you do’. So if you don’t see yourself as a carer you are unlikely to consider asking for practical support, find out about financial support, such as the Carer’s Allowance, or seek advice from others who find themselves in similar circumstances. This is where community practitioners, health visitors, GPs, social workers and pharmacists can make all the difference. Frontline professionals can play a crucial role in ensuring carers are identified and guided to support as early as possible in their caring journey. Recommending a carer’s assessment could be the gateway to someone finding the support they need.

Under the Care Act 2014, local authorities and health bodies in England must work together to identify carers (Carers UK); any carer who appears to have, or is likely to have, needs for support must be identified and offered a Carer’s Assessment.

The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 and the Community Care and Health (Scotland) Act 2002 include similar measures to ensure carers are identified and offered support (Welsh Local Government Association; Care information Scotland, 2019). In Northern Ireland, the Carers and Direct Payments (NI) Act 2002 states that health and social care trusts must identify carers (Northern Ireland Assembly, 2016).

Being in touch with carers every day, there are lots of things community practitioners can do to get carers connected to support – starting off with helping them to recognise their caring role.

How you can help

Start the conversation

Speak to your patient and those around them to see if anyone is giving them support. If the patient agrees, include them in the conversation about the care you’re providing. Let the carer know that there is support available that they might be entitled to. The question, ‘do you look after someone?’ can be a more effective opening than ‘are you a carer?’.

Support people to feel confident with their caring

While many carers become experts in the condition and needs of the person they support, many will need support themselves to feel confident that they are able to care safely and well. Make sure carers can access any equipment they need and have the information they require.

Signpost to information

Looking after someone is Carers UK’s guide for anyone caring for family or friends. The guide outlines your rights as a carer and gives an overview of the practical and financial support available. We produce a version of the guide for each nation in the UK. Carers UK’s website (carersuk.org) has a wealth of information about caring and we connect carers to each other for peer support.

Let carers know about support locally

Find out about the services for carers in your area. They can help put carers in touch with relevant information, advice and support from other carers.

Remember the carers among your colleagues, too

Significant numbers of those working in the NHS and in social care are combining their job with unpaid care, so it’s likely that many of your colleagues are carers. Find out what support is available in your workplace. There may be a staff network for carers or extra flexibility might be possible.

Get carers connected this Carers Week

Between 10 and 16 June we’ll be focusing on getting unpaid carers connected to information and support in their communities. There are hundreds of events taking place, so why not find out about an event that’s taking place near you and recommend it to a carer? You could also pledge your support for carers at carersweek.org

Age UK, Carers Trust, Motor Neurone Disease Association, Multiple Sclerosis Society, Rethink Mental Illness and Sense all have useful information on their webpages and are supporting us with Carers Week 2019, helping to get carers connected to support and celebrating their enormous contribution to society.

Helen Walker is the chief executive of Carers UK, the national membership charity for unpaid carers. Carers UK is both a supportive community and a movement for change, raising the voices of carers to call for change and seek recognition and support.


Resources

Carers UK has a website dedicated to helping carers, see carersuk.org

Age UK provides support for carers caring for older people, visit bit.ly/Age_UK

Carers Trust is a charity for, with and about carers, see carers.org


References 

Carers UK. (2015) Facts about carers. See https://www.carersuk.org/images/Facts_about_Carers_2015.pdf (accessed 23 May 2019).

Carers UK. (2018) Carers Week (11-17 June 2018): The physical and mental strain of caring “jeopardising” unpaid carers’ ability to care in the future, warn national charities. See https://www.carersuk.org/news-and-campaigns/news/carers-week-11-17-june-2018-the-physical-and-mental-strain-of-caring-jeopardising-unpaid-carers-ability-to-care-in-the-future-warn-national-charities (accessed 23 May 2019).

Carers UK. (2019) Research: More than 600 people quit work to look after older and disabled relatives every day. See https://www.carersuk.org/news-and-campaigns/news/research-more-than-600-people-quit-work-to-look-after-older-and-disabled-relatives-every-day (accessed 23 May 2019).

Carers Trust. (Not dated) Key facts about carers and the people they care for. See https://carers.org/key-facts-about-carers-and-people-they-care (accessed 23 May 2019).

Family Action. (2012) BE BOTHERED! Making Education Count for Young Carers. See https://www.family-action.org.uk/content/uploads/2014/06/Be-Bothered-Make-Education-Count-for-Young-Carers.pdf (accessed 23 May 2019).

Carers UK. (Not dated) Care Act FAQ. See https://www.carersuk.org/help-and-advice/practical-support/getting-care-and-support/care-act-faq (accessed 23 May 2019).

Northern Ireland Assembly. (2016) Research and Information Service Briefing Paper: Carers: Legislation, Policy and Practice. See http://www.niassembly.gov.uk/globalassets/documents/raise/publications/2017-2022/2017/health/2417.pdf (accessed 23 May 2019).

Welsh Local Government Association. (not dated) Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014. See https://www.wlga.wales/social-services-and-well-being-wales-act-2014 (accessed 23 May 2019).

Care information Scotland. (2019) Community Care and Health (Scotland) Act 2002. See https://careinfoscotland.scot/topics/your-rights/legislation-protecting-people-in-care/community-care-and-health-scotland-act-2002/ (accessed 24 May 2019).

 


 

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