Local charity, Carers First, which we commission to deliver Medway's Carer Support Service, is on a mission to support and recognise carers this Carers Week.
Nobody understands carers more than Carers First does, and this year, as it celebrates 30 years of working alongside carers, the charity hopes to reach more carers than ever to help them live their lives to the fullest.
Carers Week is an annual awareness campaign that celebrates and recognises the vital contribution of the UK’s unpaid carers – supporting family members and friends who are older, have a disability, mental or physical illness or need extra help as they grow older.
There are an estimated 22,500 people caring in Medway (2011 census). Between Monday, 7 and Sunday, 13 June, Carers First will be inviting other organisations, like health and care services, schools, employers and businesses across the community to recognise the vital contribution made by unpaid carers.
Supporting Medway families
Laura is a mum of four living in Medway. She cares for her oldest son, 16, who has autism and her youngest, three, who has cystic fibrosis. Her middle son, 13, helps her in caring and she also has a daughter, four. During the first lockdown, Laura and her family didn’t leave their house in 120 days because they were shielding, stretching her to the limit financially and emotionally. Carer's First were able to support Laura including getting her help from her local food bank and grants to pay for a new school uniform for her middle son.
Laura says: “I would say without Carers First’s relentless support and talking to me and my son, we would be a lot worse off, financially and mentally. I have been in touch with a lot of agencies over the years but Carers First were the first organisation to give me the help I really needed.”
Each year, unpaid carers like Laura save the UK economy £132 billion (the cost of a second NHS) but this enormous contribution is often overlooked and caring without the right information and support can be tough.
Carers First encourages carers in Medway in need of support to visit carersfirst.org.uk or call its freephone Helpline 0300 303 1555.
As well as raising awareness of caring, the charity will be hosting a virtual afternoon tea event for carers including a relaxation and mindfulness session on Friday, 11 June. There will also be activities for young carers including Me and My Pencil drawing class for under 12 years old and a Get Inspired session with motivational speaker Jillian Haslam. For more information on these events, phone 0300 303 1555, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit their website.
Making caring visible
Alison Taylor, Chief Executive at Carers First, said: “Looking after someone can be a hugely rewarding experience, but we also know it can also be difficult at times, especially without access to the right support. This Carers Week we will be engaging with other professionals – to help them to make caring visible. We will also be holding events to show our already registered carers how much we value their incredible contribution.”
You are not alone
Cllr David Brake, Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder covering Adult Services, said: “Now, more than ever, the health and wellbeing of all of our residents is of the upmost importance to us. I would encourage anyone who helps look after a relative, or a loved one, to contact Carers First and access the support available to them. It is vital that residents know they are not alone. We will continue to work with all of our partner agencies to do everything we can to help carers across Medway.”
Unpaid carers have played an essential role
On behalf of the Carers Week charities, Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic unpaid carers have played an essential role supporting older, disabled and seriously ill relatives and friends, doing so most of the year on their own behind closed doors. They have forgone breaks from caring and much of the support they would normally have relied on.”
Although Carers First has continued, throughout the pandemic, to provide their usual support service and group sessions by moving them online, it is already to starting to plan more outdoor and face to face events as part of its recovery plan.
Hundreds of other activities are also taking place across the country during Carers Week and many people have Added Their Voice on the Carers Week website to make caring visible this year.
Would you like to be part of the conversation? Email email@example.com to find out how you can help.