This week is Carers Week – an opportunity to celebrate the fantastic contribution of carers across the country, and to reflect on how we can all do more to ensure that they are given the recognition and support that they deserve.
Last Carers Rights Day, in November 2017, the Minister for Children and Social Care, Huw Irranca-Davies set out three national priorities for carers:
- Supporting life alongside caring – All carers must have reasonable breaks from their caring role to enable them to maintain their capacity to care, and to have a life beyond caring.
- Identifying and recognising carers – Carers deserve to be recognised and supported so that they can continue to care. It is vital that carers identify themselves as carers.
- Providing information, advice and assistance – It is important that carers receive the right information and advice when they need it and in an appropriate format.
As part of delivering against these priorities a new Ministerial Group for Carers has been established and it will begin delivering an ambitious agenda for carers later this month.
Whilst collectively the Ministerial Advisory Group has the potential to support the development and delivery of better services for carers, it is important that we all take time during Carers Week to think about our own contribution to supporting carers.
3 in 5 people will be a carer at some point in their lifetime. Undoubtedly you or someone close to you has caring responsibilities, be that a family member, friend or colleague.
Why is it important to support carers?
Behind every figure is an individual, each often with a very powerful story. However, the figures themselves make a very strong case for the need to do more to support carers in Wales:
- According to the 2011 census, in almost every category, Wales has the highest proportion of carers in the UK – including the highest proportion of older carers, young carers and of carers providing over 50 hours of care a week.
- 65% of older carers (aged 60–94) have long-term health problems or a disability themselves.
- 68.8% of older carers say that being a carer has an adverse effect on their mental health.
- One third of older carers say they have cancelled treatment or an operation for themselves because of their caring responsibilities.
- 27% of young carers (aged 11–15) miss school or experience educational difficulties (this rises to 40% where children care for a relative with drug or alcohol problems)
- Young carers on average cut short or miss 48 days of school a year
- Young adult carers are more likely than the national average not to be in education, employment or training (NEET) between 16 and 19
- A quarter of young carers say they are bullied at school because of their caring role
- Carers provide 96% of care in the communities of Wales
- Unpaid carers contribute £8.1 billion to the Welsh economy each year.
Supporting carers appropriately delivers benefits for carers and the people they care for. For example:
- supporting carers by providing breaks and emotional support helps to prevent burnout and keep carers caring for longer;
- working to encourage carers into or to continue in education improves their emotional well-being and personal fulfilment as well as widening their options for future employment, education or training;
- involving carers in hospital treatment and clinical decisions improves communication and planning which results in better outcomes for both patient and carer.
However, too often carers are not supported in any of these ways.
The roles undertaken by carers are of clear benefit to the Welsh economy and contribute to easing pressure on local authorities and NHS Wales in a challenging financial climate. To maintain their caring role, and their own health and wellbeing, different carers need different kinds of support.
In our experience, this can range from requiring better information on managing medicines to having access to reliable services to provide a much-needed break from caring. However, the first step in delivering appropriate support will always stem from individuals and professionals being equipped with the information and tools they need to identify carers and to understand the barriers they face.
This is why Carers Trust Wales has prioritised developing a range of resources for and with professionals including:
- The Triangle of Care Carers Included: a Guide to Best Practice for Dementia Care, Wales Edition
- Supporting Students with Caring Responsibilities: A Resource for Further Education Providers to Help Young Adult Carers Succeed In Further Education in Wales
- Supporting Young Carers in Schools: A Step-by-step Guide for Leaders, Teachers and Non-teaching Staff
Throughout this week I have the pleasure of guest editing for Click on Wales, to raise awareness of the contribution made by carers and the challenges they continue to face. Contributors include voices from local carer services, national charities, Local Health Boards and a young adult carer. Each day, we will help to share the learning from some excellent work already being undertaken in Wales to support carers. We will also reflect on what more can and should be done to ensure that carers live healthy and connected lives, supported to do more of the things that matter to them most.
All articles published on Click on Wales are subject to IWA’s disclaimer.
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