Caring for the carers

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Over the last few weeks much has been written about the role of carers – those who provide care in a paid capacity – care support workers and those who care unpaid for a friend or family member who due to illness, disability, a mental-health problem or an addiction cannot cope without the support of their carers.

There is a clear difference between these two types of roles and Carers Northumberland, a Carers Trust Network Partner, supporting unpaid carers, feels that it is very important to make that distinction.

Today there are almost 36,000 people in Northumberland providing unpaid care to a family member, neighbour or friend in need.

Unpaid carers save the economy in excess of £119bn every year and often bridge a gap that health and social care departments cannot fill because of staffing and financial constraints.

Every day unpaid carers provide help and support to people that the state is unable to provide, keeping people out of our very busy hospitals, out of care homes and as far as is possible helping to maintain their independence in their own home.

But there is a price to be paid for this, and it is too often the unpaid carer who pays it with, in many cases, severe financial consequences and an impact on their own health and well-being.

Recent features in the national press and on TV about, for example, 15-minute calls and zero-hour contracts are only a symptom of the real underlying problems.

While they highlight the fact that paid-for care providers provide paid care in order to give unpaid carers a break, the systems are struggling to cope with delivering care to the volume of people that require help and support.

The stories do not address the underlying issue of a system which cannot cope and is becoming increasingly dependent on the UK’s seven million unpaid carers.

Without unpaid carers the system would simply not be able to cope and they need support.

Carers Northumberland is the only countywide charity in our area providing information and support to unpaid carers, regardless of the reasons why they care.

If you, another family member or a friend are providing unpaid care to someone who depends upon you, visit our website at www.carersnorth umberland.org.uk, ring our Information Line on 01670 320025/0844 800 7354 or email info@carersnorthumberland.org.uk for more information.

Sandi Downing,

Carers Northumberland