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.