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

Carers show the true face of caring

A few years ago, Karen gave up work to care for her husband full time. She wanted to work part-time and care but her

Young carer helping his brother

employer was not willing to consider reduced hours. Plus, health and social services calculated that it would cost £160k p/a to provide a care package to meet all of his needs. The cheaper option was to leave the care to her and provide £5k worth of support.

Karen’s husband has a degenerative condition which does not directly cause early death. She pointed out that he could live for another 28 years but that there would be no chance she could carry on that long. She feels that she is being run into the ground and exists to provide care.

For about 90 minutes today, Karen shared her story with Rory Stewart MP, Peter Aldous MP, Laura Sandys MP, Cathy Jamieson MP, Andrew Bridgen MP, Stephen Mosley MP, Jonathan Lord MP and Tracey Couch MP.

James (aged 19) and Samuel (aged 15) were also there speaking to these MPs. Both care for their mothers and have done so for many years. Their message was simple:

  • GPs need to think about who is looking after their patient at home
  • schools have to realise that pupils can be young carers which affects their school work
  • local young carers’ projects can provide vital support

These were young men who were speaking matter of factly about what they do, the impact on their own lives and what more should be done. It always strikes me how mature young carers can be when discussing their situation. Afterwards, we walked around London to see Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square, and they  talked about their interests and futures. This should be a time of choices for both.

Karen didn’t seem to have many choices; the map for her life had already been drawn. Her story illustrates why many carers feel taken advantage of and taken for granted.

The galling thing is that Karen could be considered a lucky carer as she might get a personal budget of £500 this year as a result of the Government’s £400m injection into the NHS for carers. Very few carers get a personal budget (fewer than 50,000 in 08/09) and if they do it is usually for approximately £250. So Karen could nearly consider herself a model of how the extra money is providing extra support. But as she pointed out, her £500 will still only provide one hour off every fortnight.

This is not the change that carers need. This can only just be the start or we will leave James and Samuel with no choices, and no chance.

Take care


PS: Carers need continued support. Don’t forget to tune-in to BBC Lifeline’s appeal for carers on BBC One on June 19th at 4:45 pm (if you are in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) and 5:15 (if in Scotland). Please do spread the word.

June 14, 2011 Posted by | Benefits, breaks for carers, Carers Week 2009, Relationships, Young carers | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments