Over 6.5 million people in the UK are carers. They will be looking after a family member or friend who has a disability, mental or physical illness, or who someone who needs extra help.
One in four people will become a carer at some point in their lives, and with cuts to local authority budgets and stretched resources, carers are being asked to do more and more.
As the former Operations Manager of a Carers Centre, I have had first-hand experience working with carers to try and help them understand the support available and to try and make their lives easier.
Whether completing benefit forms, attending tribunals, providing counselling services, running a coffee morning or presenting evidence to the APPG on Carers at the House of Commons, the work was all designed to help those who help others voluntarily, or by necessity.
The theme of this year’s Carers Week (10th – 16th June) is Getting Carers Connected in their Communities. This is extremely important as many carers find themselves socially isolated by their caring role, which impacts their own mental and physical health.
Carers Centres’ do a lot of amazing work and run a huge number of activities for service users, but there are occasions when it is simply impossible to leave the house – so what other options are available?
A great resource for carers is the Carers UK forum, a supportive online community of current and former unpaid family carers who understand the ups and downs of caring.
Many local centres will have their own forums, but we are also seeing more organisations using digital tools to reach socially isolated people, such as creating WhatsApp Groups for carers or online meetups.
With an ageing population and a looming crisis in social care, carers will be asked to provide more and more frontline services.
If you know someone that is providing care, check if they are getting any support. Many people do not recognise themselves as carers, but help is available. The Carers Trust run a network of over 140 carers centres across the UK and will be able to help locally.