Pharmacies as the frontline to identifying carers

I’m working on a pilot scheme at Carers Trust that aims to identify ‘hidden carers’ when they go into pharmacies to use their services. When I read the job description and first heard the expression ‘hidden carers’ I was a bit worried. Who was hiding these carers? Why? How do they get away with it? It hardly seemed fair. Continue reading

December 9, 2014 Posted by | Hidden carers | Leave a comment

Looking back at Carers Week 2012

Note: We asked Carers Week Manager, Helen Clarke to share with us thoughts on her experience of Carers Week 2012. Following is a blog post contributed by her.

Older carers

This year’s Carers Week theme was “In sickness and health”

This year was my first Carers Week ( Carers Week is an annual UK-wide awareness campaign run by a partnership of charities including Carers Trust. I joined the campaign in late February and got stuck in from day one. Plenty had already got in motion, we had seven of our eight charity partners on board and Sainsbury’s and Skills for Care had agreed to sponsor the campaign. The theme In Sickness and in Health had been decided on and I discovered on day one that I would be writing up the findings for the report to launch the campaign – what a great induction to the issues affecting the UK’s 6.4 million carers.

Well, the next three months whizzed by. I travelled around the partner offices to introduce myself and learn about their work. In March I signed off on the Carers Week promotional materials and met with Sainsbury’s Diversity Champions to launch the new initiative for Carers Week which went on to see over 500 of their stores registering and working with hundreds of local groups raising awareness among their staff and customers.

Before I knew it launch day was looming. Having worked on another awareness campaign there is always that worry that there will be another news story that pipped you to the post and got the lion’s share of the coverage. The groundwork was all there, Bex (the Carers Week Media Officer) had dozens of fantastic carers willing to share their story, a report with some shocking findings and clear calls to action for government. We weren’t to be disappointed. Carers Week and the impact that caring has on the health and well-being of carers was right across the media, from the Today programme on Radio Four to Dr Hillary Jones visiting a carer’s home on ITV’s Daybreak. News items and interviews were taking place right across the UK and not just about our news story but also the fantastic events that all the local groups had been organising. Not to mention trending on Twitter (at number two for most of the morning of Monday 18 June, and briefly number one).

Carers Week is a well supported campaign which has many opportunities to improve the lives of carers. With over 1,900 organisations registering to take part and thousands of events taking place across the UK it goes a long way to raise awareness of carers and the services and support available to them. It also highlights what needs to change to improve carers’ lives – to inform politicians we took carers to Westminster and set up a speednetworking event which saw nearly 30 MPs meeting with carers working with Carers Week eight charity partners. All the MPs including Care Minister Paul Burstow MP left with action points and a clearer view of how tough carers find their caring role and what could be done to improve their lives. The following day we were in the House of Lords with over 20 Peers, more MPs and Fiona Phillips. We will continue to follow activity and announcements from government to see what difference Carers’ Week and ongoing activity can make to carers’ lives.

With every project no matter how large or small comes the evaluation. This is taking place now and it is fascinating hearing how local groups and organisations have participated in the campaign and the creative and imaginative events and activity that took place. It is also fabulous seeing the photos of all the great events and people taking part. If you want to feed back how Carers Week was for you and your organisation please complete our online survey

Here’s to an even more fabulous Carers Week in 2013 (Monday 10 to Sunday 16 June).

July 9, 2012 Posted by | Health, Hidden carers | , | Leave a comment

Carers Week – Carers Take Over Parliament

Note: This post is written by Claire Thwaite, Carer and volunteer at The Carers’ Resource in Skipton, where she helps to educate people about the importance of carers and to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. She offers others support and information that she did not have when she first became a carer. Claire attended the Carers Week Speednetworking Event in Parliament.

My journey to London started out in familiar way – a mad scramble to get both myself and my cared for washed,

Claire with MP Andrew Stephenson

Claire with MP Andrew Stephenson

dressed and ready to leave.

The result? I missed my intended train and fretted the rest of the way about missing my connection. As my cared for pointed out when I got irate “that’s exactly what you are going to London to talk about” – Doh!

Fortunately, I arrived in time and Emma (Senior Policy & Parliamentary Officer, Carers Trust), James (Trustee from Action for Carers, Surrey) and I fought our way through the crowds and queued up to pass through security at the entrance to the Houses of Parliament.

Scanned, tagged and deemed no threat to security, we made our way into Westminster Hall with enough time for a brief tour. From that moment on I feared I would be struck dumb by the sheer awesomeness of this beautiful building – what triumph, tragedy and torment those walls could tell of.

Onward to the Jubilee Room and the initial hubbub began when the Minister for Care Services, Paul Burstow MP entered the room and everyone vied to obtain a few precious seconds of his time and maybe get a picture.

On to the real aim of the day – MPs began filtering through and I started to feel a little nervous. Fortunately, my first conversation was with Robert Buckland MP who was extremely friendly. He showed a keen interest in hearing about my experience caring for my mentally ill partner and my views on how the government needed to do more to get help for carers from the outset.

My next conversation with Conservative MP for Gosport, Caroline Dinenage was equally positive – I shared my experience of the downfalls of the recent changes to benefits, which have left me faced with having to give up my own job to support my partner back into work.

The following tete-a-tete, with an MP who SHOULD remain nameless, was brief as he sat down declaring himself “unable to learn anything today as I have been here for 30 years”. So, I saved my breath for those who had a genuine interest – and there were many, most of whom had their own experiences of caring or mental illness.

Carers with MPs at the House of Parliament

Carers Speed-Networking with MPs at the House of Parliament

During a most interesting discussion with Barbara Keeley MP about a new Private Members Bill on social care that she is taking forward in a few weeks time, my local MP, Andrew Stephenson arrived. He was charming and shared some of his own thoughts about mental health and how Parliament is engaging with the issue.

After that, came Mark Durkam MP from Northern Ireland, with whom James and I discussed again the lack of initial support available to carers and also employment law and issues with employers understanding carers. After he bade us farewell, we realised it was 6.15 and the event had finished 15 minutes ago.

The journey home was uneventful by comparison. My only regret? It didn’t go on long enough ……. Oh, and I should have worn more comfortable shoes.

June 21, 2012 Posted by | Health, Hidden carers | , | 8 Comments

Carers Week 2012: You shouldn’t have to wreck your health to care

The theme of Carers Week this year is “In sickness and in health.”  You can look at that from all sorts of points of view. Obviously the quotation is taken from marriage vows, and for those people caring for a  partner, but no less for those caring for parents, siblings, children, or  friends, you’re there alongside each other through thick and thin. So the theme of Carers week might prompt you to reflect on the good times and the bad, the positive times and the difficult times. We don’t just discard someone when they’re ill, disabled or frail – we’re in it together.

But no-one’s saying that’s easy, and if you’re the person providing the care, it can feel unending, exhausting and frustrating some days. And things are getting worse- services closing with cutbacks, and less benefit money available. The research carried out for Carers Week found that 84% of people never expected to be a carer – and who does? Caring is something that generally comes unexpectedly – sometimes it happens overnight, or sometimes if develops slowly, depending on the situation of the person you care for.

Many carers feel sad for the different future there might have been, or sometimes the person they feel they’ve lost. Despite this, few carers walk away –not completely, at least although many sometimes wonder what would happen if they did. Carers Week is a chance to recognise the millions of carers who, through thick and thin, good times and bad, are there to care.

Thank you all, so much.

But it’s not just about the health of the person who has the care needs. Carers often put their own health on the back burner. Things need to be done, and perhaps there’s no-one else. So you get on with it, just do it, even though you’re exhausted, even though you’re feeling ill or really low. The problem is that if you’re exhausted, and you get ill, then who’s going to care for you, and the person you care for?

It’s hard to prioritise your own health. Many carers find it hard to take a break and even getting to doctor’s appointments. Having the mental energy to make an appointment, with all the messing about that entails is sometimes just another hassle that carers can do without.

With 10% of the population having a  caring role, and the huge levels of poor health within the caring population, the Government needs to address this differently. We need to think of this as a public health issue. We know about lots of factors which make people unwell – lack of exercise, poor diet, smoking, drinking too much, as well as the social factors that are linked to this. The Government realises it needs to address those as they not only cost the NHS but they also on people’s ability to work, and so massive campaigns are funded. But where are they putting the resources in to support carers’ physical and mental health? The kind of money that would really make a difference?

I know there’s not a lot of money about. But saving money at the expense of carers’ health, whilst expecting them just to pick up the pieces left behind by the reduction in services and decimation of benefits, is no kind of saving.  Carers already give up so much to help another person. They shouldn’t have to wreck their health too.

Related links:

Carers Week

News story: Alarming number of carers sacrificing own health by putting off medical treatments

There are campaign materials available for carers – template letters/emails to MPs, GP surgeries and for politicians to send to local authorities/CCGs/health trusts etc. Download campaign templates here

June 19, 2012 Posted by | breaks for carers, Health, Hidden carers, Mental Health | | 1 Comment

Hidden carers aren’t hidden at all

We talk a lot about “hidden carers” – the thousands of carers out there who are not in touch with any kind of support. I Sainsbury's campaign for hidden carerswonder what  a “ hidden “ carer looks like. Are they in camouflage with faces painted in green and brown, with khaki trousers and hat with twigs on?  Or are they like Harry Potter with an invisibility cloak? Well, I know some carers feel like they’re invisible, at least.

The truth is that they’re not hidden at all. On every street in every town there is at least one carer. They might not call themselves that, but they’re carrying out caring roles, looking after people who need them.

This isn’t an invisible thing to do. Looking after someone involves taking them to appointments, or to school if they’re a child, getting help from care services for them, doing their shopping, getting their prescriptions, making sure they get out and about and take part in the  activities they need to keep them healthy and happy. None of this is invisible or hidden. In almost all these activities, there are people who can see there is someone there, providing significant support to someone else.

However, just because it’s visible doesn’t  mean it’s always seen. If people providing these kinds of services aren’t thinking “carer” then perhaps it just doesn’t cross their mind to ask if someone is doing OK and whether they are getting the support they need. Maybe they don’t think it’s their job and perhaps sometimes they don’t want to feel like they’re interfering.  It is quite a personal issue after all. But as one carer once said – I just wanted someone to ask: “How are you?”.

Of course not every carer will want help from an external source, and this is absolutely fine. The other week, I spoke to a carer  who looks after his daughter who has a physical condition which needs painful daily treatment. He just regards himself as a dad and this as his job . But if he does need support, now or in the future, at least he now knows we’re here and what kinds of help we can provide.

So what we need to do is make sure being a carer is something we’re not scared to talk about publicly and we all see supporting people in their caring role  as  our business. This means we need to get beyond the people who already think of themselves as a carer, out to the wider population of people who think they’re “just” someone’s dad, or mum, or daughter, or brother, or neighbour, or friend.  This week – helping to kick off Carers Week –  in partnership with Sainsbury’s we’re working with some Carers Centres in London to raise awareness amongst   carers locally and give them a chance to find out more about the support that is available, even if they don’t think of themselves as a carer already. If it works, we hope to roll this out more widely.

It’s great that an organisation with as wide a reach as Sainsbury’s sees the importance of carers and  is prepared to put so much work into this. If they can, surely others can too .

More about Carers Trust’s “Hidden Carers” project in partnership with Sainsburys

June 15, 2012 Posted by | Hidden carers | , , | 2 Comments