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Recognise and prioritise the role of carers

This blog was written by Carole Cochrane, Chief Executive at The Princess Royal Trust for Carers

Today is the first day of my last month as Chief Executive of The Princess Royal Trust for Carers. I have worked with and for The Trust for over 17 years so it is with a real mixture of feelings that I am writing this blog.

Mother and son outside Carers' Centre

You cannot do a job like this and just walk away

When I started back in 1994 it was to establish one of the first Princess Royal Trust Carers’ Centres. Those were such exciting times filled with hope and aspirations.

In 1995 we had the Carers (Recognition & Services) Act.  This was the first piece of legislation that really recognised the role of carers, their needs and the benefits of ensuring they have support in their own right.

Malcolm Wicks MP did a great job pushing the bill through and I remember so well the feeling of elation that we now had something on the statute books about and for carers. I also remember a feeling of frustration that no money came with the Act. Good local authorities were already looking at ways to support carers!

I remember working with the head of the local social work team to train all their staff on the contents of the Act. This proved to be a brilliant opportunity to form real lasting relationships between the Carers’ Centre and the social work team, and between social workers and the carers who helped with the training.

I was extremely proud that following this training the Carers’ Centre was no longer seen as a place to avoid, but rather a place for social workers to turn to for information, advice and support. The Trust was able to grow and between us we delivered some real ground breaking support.

There have been a few significant pieces of legislation passed since then, including the Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000 and The Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act 2004, and I am sure there will be further development to ensure carers’ rights regarding access to accurate and timely information, emotional and practical support, and respite breaks.

Some things have changed for the better since 1994 but some have not.  My fear as I leave is that in these austere times the much needed support for carers may get watered down and what I still to this day believe is a fantastic model of local carers support services will be diluted.

Having witnessed first-hand the difference our network of local carer services can make to the lives of carers and those they care for I truly hope that this is not the case.

Last year in the run up to the elections  we saw all of the main party leaders speak about the need to support carers and of the fantastic work that carers do. Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg, remember your words and stay true to ensuring carers do have the support they need to fulfil their caring roles and be able to be full citizens of the UK.

Leaders of parties in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland must also prioritise carers and I know colleagues are working to push this in preparations for upcoming elections there.

So as I reach my final weeks with The Trust what will I miss?  When my children were young and when I cared for my husband, work had to be around these very important roles so lots of part-time, evening and night working.

For the past three years I have spent most of my working week travelling and being away from home, and I know I won’t miss that.  But I will really miss the camaraderie of colleagues, network members, and carers’ organisations that I have worked alongside to try to improve the lives of carers.

I will miss the engagement with carers.  Meeting carers whether at Pontin’s when we did the carers breaks there; at Carers’ Centres or conferences and other events has always kept me both grounded and focused.

I will miss working with our President HRH The Princess Royal who I have found to be extremely supportive and knowledgeable about the cause, and incredibly hard working.

You cannot do a job like this and just walk away. Although I am not sure how, when or where, I do know that I will continue to watch what is happening and continue to do whatever I can to influence better support services for carers.

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March 1, 2011 Posted by | Big Society, Carers movement, General Election, Law, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales | , , , | 5 Comments