Carers Week, taking place this year from 7-13 June, is an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring across the country. It aims to highlight the challenges unpaid carers face and acknowledge the contribution they make to families and communities, something that’s more important than ever in these challenging times.
Crucially, Carers Week also helps people who don’t think of themselves as having caring responsibilities to identify as carers and access much-needed support.
A venture of six UK charities (Age UK, Carers Trust, Carers UK, Motor Neurone Disease Association, Oxfam and Rethink Mental Illness), Carers Week is brought to life by thousands of individuals and organisations who come together to provide support for carers, profiling the essential role carers play in our neighbourhoods and drawing attention to just how important caring is.
The number of unpaid carers in the UK is rising at an exponential rate this century due to the rapidly increasing older people’s population. With as many as one in six adults now taking on an unpaid caring role, it is extremely important our society recognises and values the crucial support they provide.
There are an estimated 6,500 unpaid carers living in Cumbernauld and Kilsyth, many of whom selflessly look after a family member or friend who has a disability, mental or physical illness or who needs extra help as they grow older.
Caring’s impact on all aspects of life from relationships and health to finances and work should not be underestimated, with carers facing even more difficult circumstances this year as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Many unpaid carers struggle alone without support, and Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub is an advocate that everyone – governments, employers, health and social care professionals, schools and communities – plays a role in putting carers in touch with practical, financial and emotional help.
The theme of Carers Week 2021 is Make Caring Visible and Valued, which strives to bring down barriers in relation to unpaid carers feeling isolated, burdened, unsupported and unappreciated.
A 2019 Carers UK survey found that unpaid carers are seven times more likely to be lonely than people who are not responsible for looking after a loved one living with an illness, disability or mental health condition.
According to the poll of more than 8,000 carers, one in three unpaid carers (35%) is always or often lonely, compared with one in 20 of the general population. It also found that the majority of carers provided more than 50 hours of care every week.
A significant proportion of survey respondents attributed their loneliness to becoming isolated from their friends and colleagues due to a lack of time and money, and also to the stigma of being a carer.
In this respect, Cornerstone House Centre is backing the call of the six Carers Week national charities that there is an urgent need for the public, private and third sectors to work together to tackle loneliness and improve wellbeing amongst the UK’s carers.
HOW CAN WE BEST SUPPORT CARERS LIVING IN GREATER CUMBERNAULD?
Identify and Value Carers
The first and most obvious way we can make caring more visible in Cumbernauld is to recognise and acknowledge those who are undertaking caring roles.
Some people associate a carer with someone in a hospital or care home setting doing a specific paid job to look after people. The reality is that a carer can refer to any person in society who provides unpaid support to a family member, friend or neighbour. They may care for an older person, someone who is disabled, someone with a long-term condition, someone with a mental health difficulty or someone who is affected by alcohol or drug misuse.
One common misconception is that carers are of a certain age or profile. Carers can be any age, from children to older people, and from every community and culture. Some carers may be disabled or have care needs themselves. They may be parents, spouses, grandparents, siblings, friends, neighbours or school children.
Signpost Carers to Vital Services Which Can Assist
Caring can be extremely complicated, now more so than ever before, whether grappling with how to keep you and the person you care for safe, understanding the benefits system, or accessing care services.
Too many carers do not know where to turn or how to get the advice they need. There are many places that provide carers with these resources, including local and national carers’ organisations.
Two excellent organisations recommended by Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub for individuals in Cumbernauld seeking advice, information and support in relation to their caring role are North Lanarkshire Carers Together and Lanarkshire Carers.
North Lanarkshire Carers Carers Together is an established charity which aims to improve the lives of carers by actively linking carers and professionals in meaningful working relationships. The organisation can be contacted on 01698 404055 or by emailing email@example.com.
Lanarkshire Carers, meanwhile, offers a catalogue of services for carers living locally, including provision of Adult Carer Support Plans, facilitation of Carer Support Groups and helping carers to access short breaks. More information can be obtained by calling 01698 428090 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other organisations that provide useful advice, information or support for carers living in Greater Cumbernauld include CACE Older People Active Lives, Carers Trust, Carers UK, Crossroads Caring Scotland, Cumbernauld and Kilsyth Citizens Advice Bureau, Cumbernauld Poverty Action, Independent Age, North Lanarkshire Disability Forum and Partners in Play.
Advise and Inform About Carer Assessments
Caring for someone can be hard work and carers often miss out on the support services available to them. Over the past 15 months, the coronavirus crisis has made it even harder for carers to know where to turn for support.
Getting a Carer’s Assessment, which looks at what support a carer might need, can be an important starting point. It is free of charge and anyone over the age of 18 can request a Carer’s Assessment.
Indeed, the more visible carers are to professionals within Health and Social Care North Lanarkshire, the more their contribution and need for support will be recognised.
Show Understanding and Empathy to Carers
As highlighted, caring can lead to feelings of loneliness and being disconnected from friends and family. It can also lead to having to balance responsibilities such as work and parenting with care commitments.
The coronavirus pandemic and social distancing has meant that some carers have found themselves removed from those normally around them, particularly with many being cared for in high risk groups. Greater understanding, consideration and acknowledgement from friends, family and colleagues can make a difference to the carer emotionally and mentally, reducing their feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Highlight Carers’ Rights
Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub is keen to raise awareness of a number of carers’ rights which were made legislation in Scotland through The Carers (Scotland) Act 2016.
These include a right to access support if your needs meet a local eligibility criteria for carers, the right to be involved in care planning and assessment procedures for the person you care for and a right to be involved in the planning and development of any carer services.
Most people don’t expect to become unpaid carers, but the reality is that there is a 50-50 chance that any one of us will become one by the time we are aged 50. By raising awareness amongst the general public, carers can be better supported, more appreciated and relieved of burdens. People can also better anticipate and prepare for future caring roles through being informed and educated.