THEY have been called the county’s secret service – the thousands of carers whose lives are dedicated to looking after the most vulnerable people in our community, often without recognition or reward.
But on Wednesday, their invaluable contribution will be celebrated by the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh at a special reception being hosted at The Alnwick Garden.
The event follows Carers Week which runs until Sunday and recognises the amazing work which goes on behind the scenes by the UK’s six million carers who look after others voluntarily.
Usually it is family and friends who care, unpaid, for someone who is ill, frail or disabled. One in eight of the population in Northumberland is currently classed as a carer – that’s over 35,000 people – while one in six will become a carer in their lifetime.
Researchers at the University of Leeds recently calculated the value of unpaid caring in Northumberland at an incredible £673million, but across the UK, unpaid carers will this year make an economic contribution of more than £119billion to the economy.
David Clark, from Longframlington, knows what it means to be among their ranks.
Aged 59, he has devoted the last 20 years to his father, William, and more recently his mother, Olive. But it’s only in the last three years that he has considered himself a carer.
“My mother suffers from bipolar disorder, so it’s something I have known all my life,” said David. “She’s now 81 and as she has got older I have found myself having to do more for her. She’s now in a care home, which makes life a bit easier, and my father is getting support from Age Concern.
“It means myself, my wife, my brother and his wife are no longer getting phone calls in the middle of the night, which used to be a daily experience.
“I now work part-time because the pressure of what we had to cope with was too much to keep a full-time job, it was so stressful.”
Having an official visit by the Queen to recognise the role of carers like himself is a welcome move, says David.
“There are an awful lot of people out there who are in far more difficult situations than I am,” he said. “To be recognised like this is just amazing, as is the opportunity to be among people who have experienced what being a carer means.
“It means so much.”
Carers Northumberland Chief Executive Sandi Downing said: “In many cases, when a person is caring for a wife or husband, or a child or neighbour, they don’t even consider themselves carers – caring’s just something they do and, as a result, their contribution is hidden.
“But it’s important to recognise that whatever the level of care you’re providing, there is support out there for you.
“Caring will happen to most of us at some point in our lives and it’s important that people know how to get the help they need.
“Carers Northumberland provides practical support and information for carers and we never stop working to represent the views of carers where it matters.”
If you need support, you can contact the Carers Northumberland Information Line on 0844 800 7354.