When we consider the role of carers, we often think about residential care homes or nursing homes but there are millions of people who are unpaid carers for loved ones and family members, and it is important to consider ways of helping to support these individuals. One in ten adults in the UK provide unpaid care for a friend or family member, and these people should be supported and recognised in the same way as NHS staff for the invaluable work they do. There are also many young people who often help as carers for their parents in the home and their role should be especially recognised.
A few years ago there was a cross-Government National Carers Strategy to look at what more can be done to support existing and future carers. After a lengthy consultation with carers themselves, the Government announced a two-year programme of support. This includes support for young carers, effective action to help carers balancing their caring and employment responsibilities and ensuring that health and social care services are responsive to their needs.
Locally, there are several groups that work to support and promote the work of unpaid carers. Promas is a local community run company that provides free courses for unpaid carers in Cornwall. The key focus of their work is on helping train carers to be able to deal with the health conditions they are managing and also, crucially, to teach carers how to have regard for their own wellbeing and make time and space for themselves. If a carer cracks under the strain, then no one benefits. The courses are a great way of offering support to carers who can often feel isolated.
I visited Promas prior to the pandemic and learnt more about the variety of courses they offer covering things like dementia, mental ill health and managing stress. The group do a great job of making people feel welcome, important, and understanding the difficulties which people experience.
Another group I have visited previously is Shared Lives which is an independent charity that provides a range of services for people with additional needs but in a home environment. The central feature of the model is that adults with some special needs join a family and become lodgers in a carers home, rather than being placed in a more formal care setting. It can be a really powerful approach with a homely ethos.
As we emerge from the pandemic the Government is committed to ensuring young carers are not left behind. The Carers Action Plan, published in 2018, outlined a number of measures for young carers, which included steps to better identify young carers, measures to safeguard vulnerable children, and improvements in educational opportunities and outcomes.