As children we are taught to put others before ourselves and we carry this notion into adulthood. I would like to challenge this notion, especially where carers are concerned.
Carers have a constant worry about what would happen to the person they care for, if something happened to them; yet for too many their own health concerns are put on hold, ignored or just not met.
A new Carers Trust survey of older carers reveals more than 80% of carers had at least one health condition, with 66% directly attributing it to their caring role. Astonishingly, over 50% reported 3 or more health conditions.
The survey backs up what we already know about carers, that they put their own health on hold. Over half, 57% of carers, said they had postponed or cancelled their own appointment or treatment due to their caring role.
We can’t ignore carers’ health issues
Carers are all too often going without enough sleep, are unable to take time to exercise and giving up activities and hobbies they enjoyed, contributing further to their poor health.
We cannot afford to ignore the health issues faced by our growing population of carers. More people than ever are caring, and caring for longer and later in life. Carers are vital in supporting the stretched health and social care system. It is therefore imperative their own health is prioritised.
Putting our self first when it comes to health is not selfish and we should not feel guilty, it is vital especially for those people with a caring role.
Carers Trust is calling for local authorities to use their power and add a question to the free NHS Health Check, asking if people have a caring role.
This will help identify carers early, ensuring they get the advice and support they need to look after their health long term.
To take part in the action and find out more, see our Speak up for older carers campaign.
Blog by Louise Marks, Dementia Policy and Development Officer at Carers Trust
This blog was created by the Assistant Headteacher of Bartholomew School in Oxfordshire.
The Young Carers in School (YCiS) programme has had a big impact on Bartholomew students who are young carers. The average attendance for our young carers (YC) during 2015-16 was 94.2%, an increase on each of the previous two years. YC attainment is also impressive, with YC students achieving 87.5% A*-C including English and maths at GCSE last year.
But of course, the YCiS programme is not just about supporting academic progress. We have noticed a significant improvement in students’ emotional well-being, confidence and self-esteem. They have access to funding to support extracurricular activities, as well as opportunities to try new activities. Our YCs also tell us how much they value having the space and time to talk to someone, and to meet other young carers from across the UK. Parents also feel listened to and supported. But, perhaps most importantly, our students feel proud that they are a young carer.
From a teacher’s perspective, it is really important to understand what is going on with each of our young carers, including any and all factors which may affect their progress. We are then best placed to put in place the most appropriate support for their individual needs, be it adjusting homework requirements, offering additional support to help them catch up if they have missed time out of school, ensuring they get the same opportunities as their peers both inside and outside the classroom, and signposting to other supports and opportunities – such as days out, YC youth club or CHICKs respite.
We see so many success stories among our young carer students, and one that is typical is the young carer who was struggling emotionally both at home and in school. He has been a carer for many years, but it was only after he had received support in school and had started to attend the local YC youth club that he had the confidence to leave his mum and attend a respite residential break in the summer where he was able to experience activities such as horse riding for the first time. Mum also feels supported and listened to, especially as we are able to assist in looking at appropriate support avenues and referrals. This young man’s attendance has also improved since he became involved in the YCiS programme.
Another one of our students was identified 5 years ago as a young carer. Initially supported regularly 1:1 and via Spurgeons, she has now been able to access the children’s support fund to help with funding a new laptop to help with her studies. She has grown hugely in confidence and now feels able to support other younger students who are young carers. Her excellent GCSE results were also an indication of the positive impact of the YCiS programme.
Bartholomew School have also been supported by Oxfordshire County Council through the Oxfordshire Young Carer School Standards.
I’m three months into the new job and this is my first Carer Week. It’s really impressive to see how much activity is taking place across the UK. Local carers services have been brewing up a whole range of events in local libraries, town halls, shopping centres, social media and much more besides. Carers Trust have been on TV and radio, raising awareness of carers and the work of our local carers services.
On Tuesday, Carers Trust, with carers and other charities, chatted to lots of MPs at a Westminster parliamentary event. Also in Westminster, Parliament is having its first full day carers debate for several years this Thursday.
It’s important we continue to raise awareness because we know that many carers go unsupported. Carers Trust Network Partners see about half million of the UKs carers. Which leaves nearly 5m who don’t access these valuable services. This might well be that many carers decide these services are not for them. Much more likely is that they are simply not aware that they exist. Our ambition is to see our Network Partners reach many more of these carers, to let them know about the support that’s available.
I sat in on a drop in session in my local carers centre last week.
Mona (not her real name) is a single mother of 3 children, one of whom has been severely disabled all her life. Having reached the age of 18 her disabled daughter is now entitled to employment support allowance. ESA for short. The ESA form is a formidable 52-page booklet, seeking all sorts of information about the claimant. Given that Mona and her daughter have been in receipt of statutory services for the last 18 years, it’s almost certain that most of the information they’re asking for is known to statutory authorities already. Sitting in others systems probably. Mona’s English was good and she said she could probably fill out the report herself, were it not for the fact that she’s completely exhausted. The form’s already a month overdue so they’ve lost out on some benefits already. The staff in the centre were incredibly helpful. They phoned the ESA folk straight away to check on the deadline and are going to sit down with Mona to help her complete the form and send it off. They’re also going to try to get Mona a break. Possibly with a grant from Carers Trust. I hope she’s successful. As she was leaving I told Mona about the weekly carers film club in the Carers Centre, which got her all excited. Let’s hope she checks that out too.
Despite all of the help that’s on offer to carers, from Carers Trust Network Partners and many others, Monas case, and the evidence in this year’s State of Caring report, reminds us that life remains really tough for many of the UK’s carers.
So in this week of celebrating all that carers do, let’s not forget the inconvenient truth, that many UK carers are not having a good time.
There was no sign that Mona had received her Care Act Assessment under the new legislation. Carers Trust has been looking into how the new Care Act is working for Carers one year on. Look out for the report in early July. We hope it will give government, both national and local, important evidence about what needs improving, and food for thought as the new national carers strategy is being developed.
In the meantime, if you’re supporting carers or are a carer yourself, see if you can take some time to take part in Carers Week this week. There’s a lot of fun stuff happening all over the UK, quite possibly near you or if not on-line.
Remember Carers Trust is here to help. You can find your local carers service by calling 08448004361 or on http://www.Carers.org
Joe Gannon is Director of Policy and Research at Carers Trust.
I’ve had this feeling lately that campaigning is really easy but then I’m getting a lot of help. I have had young adult carers creating campaigns and then I do the easy bit of getting the message out there to all the lovely people in contact with Carers Trust.
A young adult carer got in contact about her student group’s campaign for UCAS to change their application form. That way carers can identify themselves using a tick box. Carers Trust is getting the message out there and collecting signatures for the group’s petition. Continue reading
This week is dying matters week, the week will be used to highlight the importance of having conversations with our close family members and friends about what we would like when we are at the end of our life, and how we would like to be remembered. We are encouraged to get ‘our house’ in order and to fulfil as much of our bucket list as we can. Continue reading
Finding a job is not easy for anyone. Once you’ve had a think about what you would like to do, completed various online personality tests on what job would suit you best and asked everyone you know what they think, you get to the task of actually searching for work. Then you have to decide where’s best to look – online, in newspapers, through friends and family, maybe contact a recruitment agency?
Amidst all of this you must start writing a CV, covering letters and completing application forms – and of course, all jobs are different and expect different things during the application process. Continue reading
Last week a group of young carers and young adult carers spoke in the Houses of Parliament. They talked about a subject that had never been covered in this type of discussion. The subject is probably a really familiar one for anyone who works with young carers but it is not really known by the general public – the mental health of young carers. Continue reading
I travel a lot. Not fun travel like “oh I just popped to Marrakech for the weekend” travel, but travel for work as in “yes I’m in Darlington today then I’ve got to get to Taunton tomorrow” – that sort of travel. The travel has a purpose (I don’t just have the weirdest idea of ‘fun’ ever), the purpose is carers, the purpose is inclusion, the purpose is change, the purpose is the Triangle of Care. Most weeks of the year I travel around talking to professionals in mental health services to support them to include carers in their services more; the Triangle of Care programme works to ensure carers are included, informed and supported in their own right whilst being able to have the skills and knowledge to support the person they care for better. On my travels I find the majority of people get it: they get that it makes sense to give carers more knowledge about how mental health services work; they get it that it makes sense to get them support in their own right; they get that whole family working makes sense for all involved. Continue reading
Do you have a New Year’s Resolution? At Carers Trust we’ve been thinking about our plans for 2016 and although we will want to try out new ways of delivering our campaigns, at the heart of what we do will remain the same priority: supporting unpaid carers.
And as we scan ahead into 2016, we have plenty of new opportunities to do just that. Continue reading
Winter has taken a while to reach us this year but the cold weather has definitely arrived! Winter can be a difficult time for all carers, particularly those who are elderly or care for an older or physically disabled person. Some older people and those they care for can find moving around very difficult and for some people any movement without help is impossible. It is this group of people who are at the highest risk in winter – not just from the cold itself, which can be devastating, but from isolation, loneliness and depression. Continue reading