Issue 96 is out now
Melissa Corkhill

By Melissa Corkhill

04th June 2012

Carers Week is an annual awareness campaign which recognises and celebrates the contribution made by the UK’s 6.4 million unpaid carers to the people they care for and their communities. From 18-25th June, Carer's Week, organised by a partnership of national charities aims to raise the profile of carers.

Melissa Corkhill

By Melissa Corkhill

04th June 2012

Melissa Corkhill

By Melissa Corkhill

04th June 2012

The theme in 2012 is In sickness and in health. It goes further than the wedding vows, it recognises that many carers devote so much of their time caring for a family member or friend; they can often end up ill themselves.

In 2012 the partnership are calling for sustainable funding for social care and better support for unpaid carers both practically and financially. Carers need to be registered with their GP so they’re sign-posted to support services, offered respite and get the advice and information they need to look after themselves and the people they care for.

When people need help with their day-to-day living they often turn to their family and friends. Looking after each other is something that we do. Up and down the UK there are six million people caring unpaid for an ill, frail or disabled family member or friend. These people are called carers but they would probably say “I’m just being a husband, a wife, a mum, a dad, a son, a daughter, a friend or a good neighbour.”
Carers help with personal things like getting someone dressed, turning them in their sleep, helping them to the loo, helping them move about or administering their medication. Carers also help with things like shopping, laundry, cleaning, cooking, filling in forms or managing money.

For many people caring comes briefly, maybe helping someone who has come out of hospital to get back on their feet – a few intense months that turn your life upside down and then it’s over. For others it may be a regular obligation of a few hours a week helping out. For those with disabled children it can be a lifelong commitment. Some people are caring round the clock, 24 hours a day. How caring affects you depends on how much you are doing, what else is going on in your life and to some extent what kind of a person you are.

Caring can be a rich source of satisfaction in people’s lives. It can be life-affirming. It can help deepen and strengthen relationships. It can teach you a multitude of skills and help you realise potential you never thought you had. But without the right support caring can have a devastating impact. Evidence shows that caring can cause ill health, poverty and social isolation. When caring is intensive and unsupported you can struggle to hold down a job, get a night’s sleep, stay healthy and maintain your relationships with friends and family.

When caring happens, many people are shocked to find out just how little support there can be. Help is often out there, but talk to any carer and they will tell you to be ready to fight tooth and nail for every bit of help you get.
Caring is something that will affect each and every one of us. The statistics show most of us will become carers at some point in our lives.

Facts about carers

1. There are almost six million carers in the UK

2. One in eight adults in the UK is a carer

3. 3 million people juggle work with caring responsibilities for a disabled, ill or frail relative or friend

4. The main carers’ benefit – Carers Allowance – is £55.55 for a minimum of 35 hours, equivalent to £1.59 per hour

5. People providing high levels of care are twice as likely to be permanently sick or disabled

6. Every year 2 million people take on new caring responsibilities

7. 1.25 million people care for more than 50 hours a week

8. 58% of carers are women, 42% are men

9. 1.5 million carers are over the age of 60

10. Carers’ unpaid contribution is £119 billion each year, yet the decision to care can mean a commitment to future poverty. Many give up an income, future employment prospects and pension rights to become a carer.

Making the most of money
For most people, caring hits their finances. Unlike medical care, social care is not usually free so people often have to pay for the support they need. Household income can take a dramatic drop through giving up work or a reduction in working hours as well as the extra costs, such as heating, petrol and laundry.

Carers should have a benefits check to make sure they are claiming everything that they are entitled to. This will help you understand what benefits you or the person cared for might be able to claim and how to do so. This is particularly important if the person you care for is going to need care for a while.

Some of the entitlements available include:
• Benefits for the person you care for, like Disability Living Allowance, for people
under the age of 65 or Attendance Allowance for those over 65.
• Carers’ benefits such as Carer’s Allowance if you are providing care, unpaid, for 35
hours or more for someone who receives the right level of disability benefit.
• Council tax discounts.
• Discounts on fuel bills if you receive certain benefits.
• Protection for your state pension.
• Extra tax credits if you need childcare for your disabled child and you work.