There are 6.5 million people in the UK right now supporting a family member or friend who has a disability, illness, mental health problem or who needs extra help as they grow older. Yet, visibility remains low. Carers UK’s own research has found that the public dramatically underestimates the number of carers in their own friendship group, place of work, and even their own family. More than half (51%) of the public don’t believe they know a single carer, despite 1 in 10 of people providing unpaid care.
Worryingly, this lack of awareness also extends to carers themselves. We know that more than half of carers take more than a year to recognise their role, with many believing they are simply being a supportive son or daughter, doing what any friend would do, or just taking on that ‘little bit more’ than the average parent. This worsens the financial, physical and mental health of carers, with those remaining ‘invisible’ less likely to access support.
Many carers aren’t prepared for caring and can struggle to find their way around the social care and health systems. Many carers say caring leaves them being exhausted, frustrated and becoming unwell themselves. Putting others first, so often means that carers neglect their own health and wellbeing.
That’s why support from paid care staff this Carers Week is so important.
The goal of this year’s Carers Week is to help unpaid carers be ‘Healthy and Connected’. We all have a vital role to play in helping carers understand they entitled to support to help them maintain good physical, mental and financial health. Care staff, with their insight into the everyday lives of those looking after family and friends, have a really important opportunity to identify and signpost those looking after loved ones to support.
Recognising the knowledge that carers have about those they help look after will also bring better outcomes for you as care workers, the person with care needs, and the carer too.
The Carers Week national charities are a great place for carers to find information, advice and support. Carers UK is a membership organisation providing expert advice and information. We have a supportive online Forum providing emotional support as well as practical information. Carers Trust works in partnership with a network of local carers’ support services. Condition specific charities like MS Society, Macmillan Cancer Support and the Motor Neurone Disease Association provide more tailored information about supporting a loved one with those conditions.
Supporting those who juggle unpaid caring roles with jobs in the care workforce
Three million people in the UK or one in nine people in the workforce are juggling care with paid work. Without the right support from their employer and the back-up of care services, many find the pressure of combining paid work with caring unmanageable.
Given the higher levels of women employed in the care workforce, and that 1 in 4 women aged 50-64 have caring responsibilities, the number of unpaid carers employed in the care workforce is likely to be significantly higher than in other industries.
It is especially important, then, that managers and care providers looking to retain and support their employees look at what they can do to ensure that they are supporting their staff to find support with their caring roles and that they are proactive in promoting supportive workplace policies for carers.
This Carers Week, if you support ill, older or disabled people in your paid role, join Age UK, Carers UK, Carers Trust, Independent Age, Macmillan Cancer Support, MS Society, MND Association, and Which? Elderly Care in reaching more carers than ever before.
Pledge your support, find out more information, list your own awareness events, and download free resources on the Carers Week website (www.carersweek.org).