The Dilemma for Carers: Work or Stay at home

The Dilemma for Carers: Work or Stay at home

In recent weeks the political system has endured a whirlwind of changes as Rishi Sunak becomes the latest prime minster to tackle the cost-of-living crisis. Along with a new prime minster, Steve Barclay has been newly appointed as Secretary of State for Health and Social Care. As such, questions are raised as to what the new government will do to support carers, at a time where they are facing huge pressures.

Currently, if you care for someone for at least 35 hours a week you are entitled to a Carer’s Allowance of £69.70. However, to many this is not enough to cover the burdening economic pressures in terms of bills and increasing prices. On the other hand, the carer’s allowance could be lost if carers take on work, placing carers in a difficult position.

If carers do take on work, they may have to reduce their work hours to manage their additional caring responsibilities. As a consequence, carers will receive a reduced income, during a time of economic instability.

The dilemma for carers, to work or to stay at home and rely upon an allowance is raised by Ed Davey, party leader of the Liberal Democrats. Ed Davey was a carer himself, and his experiences has helped shape his politics and perspectives. He argues that unpaid carers were left out of the Conservatives’ white paper proposals for social care, the Autumn 2022 Covid vaccine booster programme, and now out of Rishi Sunak’s cost-of-living package. As Carer’s Allowance remains the lowest benefit of its kind, Ed Davey urges an increase in payment by £1000 a year to support carers in tackling the increased petrol prices, energy bills and food prices.

Angela Rayner, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, has also had experience as a carer. At the age of 10 years old Angela became the main carer for her mum, who suffers from mental health issues. She advocates for an updated National Strategy for Carers to ensure that unpaid carers get the help and support they need. This would include raising Carer’s Allowance for full-time unpaid carers in line with Job Seekers’ Allowance.

Indeed, there are valuable projects out there which support unpaid carers into work, reducing the reliance upon the Carer’s Allowance. For instance, ‘Working for Carers’ supports unpaid carers to move closer to employment. The project has created a series of factsheets for carers, including ‘Carers’ rights at work’ and ‘Flexible working’.

There has also been an introduction of one week of additional unpaid leave for carers. Millions of people across the UK who are currently providing unpaid care to dependant family members or friends will be entitled to unpaid leave under new laws backed by the government. This law will enable unpaid carers to enjoy a better balance of working and undergoing their caring responsibilities, helping reduce the dilemma of whether to work or stay at home.

By Tabitha DesmondWorking for Carers is a London-wide project that supports unpaid carers, aged 25 or over, to move closer to employment. The project is led by Carers Trust and delivered by its network of partners across London. Working for Carers is funded by the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund. 


Planning ahead: what you need to know about end-of-life care

Planning ahead: what you need to know about end-of-life care

Understandably it can be daunting to make plans for end-of-life care. However, planning ahead can help reassure you and the person you are caring for that their wishes will be followed. It helps you and the person you care for feel more in control and creates a sense of comfort when looking towards the future. Additionally, it will benefit you and your wider family, helping avoid a lot of anxiety and potential family disagreement later on.

Here is some practical information that can be valuable when thinking about end-of-life care:

Mental Capacity

It is critical to recognise when the individual you care for may lack decision-making capacity.

Mental capacity is about being able to make your own decisions and is decision and time specific.

The person you care for will will lack mental capacity to make a decision at a particular time if they have an “impairment or disturbance of the mind or brain” for example, they have dementia or a stroke.

It is important to understand that just because someone intends to make a decision with which you disagree with or believe is unwise, it does not mean they are unable to make a decision.

Questions to ask

Consider the following points while discussing future planning with the person you are caring for:

– Where do they want to be cared for in the future?

– Who do they want to spend time within the future?

– Would they like to appoint someone to make decisions on their behalf if they lack the mental capacity to do so?

– Do they have any requests when it comes to planning their funeral? E.g., whether they want a religious service or not

– Are there any additional practical considerations they should bear in mind? E.g., pet care, handling of bank accounts

Advance Statement

In the event that the person you care for becomes ill and requires care and treatment, an advance statement allows them to record their wishes, beliefs, and values such as where they wish to be cared for. Anyone making a decision on behalf of the individual must consider this statement.

The statement does not need to be signed, but a signature would be preferable to link the person to the words written.

Advance Decision to Refuse Treatment (ADRT)

Advance Decision to Refuse Treatment (ADRT) is a written statement of wishes the person you care for has to refuse a particular treatment in a particular situation. This can be valuable in making sure that everyone knows what treatments are not wanted if the person becomes unable to communicate this.

It does not cost anything to produce a ADRT, and a solicitor is not required.


– Please see the NHS End of life Care guide for more detailed information on planning for end-of-life care.

– Dying Matters is a charity that aims to help people talk more openly about dying, death and bereavement, and to make plans for the end of life. They provide of useful resources from detailed leaflets to podcasts.

My future wishes focuses on advance planning for people living with dementia.

By Tabitha Desmond

Working for Carers is a London-wide project that supports unpaid carers, aged 25 or over, to move closer to employment. The project is led by Carers Trust and delivered by its network of partners across London. Working for Carers is funded by the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund. 

Supporting carers into work

Supporting carers into work

If services supported carers into work, this could generate £1 billion in taxes. Currently, the programme Working for Carers is supporting carers in London to move towards employment. At the end of June 2022,  1,157 carers and former carers had registered with the project.  So far, 61% of those registered with the project have accessed training, 49% have been supported to job-search, 21% have moved into employment, and 14% have accessed volunteering opportunities. This programme included:

– One-to-one meetings with a dedicated Employment Personal Advisor

– Group activities and training workshops

– Help with job searching

– Support with CVs, job applications and interview techniques

However, Working for Carers will end in June 2023 and there is nothing replacing it so far. Consequently, there is a need for more programmes like Working for Carers to emerge and for employers to support carers into work. Through supporting carers to successfully combine work and caring duties, more carers can be encouraged to go into and stay in employment.

There are often small and inexpensive things employers can do to help ease carer employees’ concerns:

– Allowing carers to leave their mobile phones on in meetings in case of emergencies relating to the individual(s) they are caring for

– Giving caregivers time and access to a phone so they may check in on the person for whom they care while working.

Flexible working can be a good way to help carers juggle their employment with their caring role, flexible working policies can include:

– Flexible start and finish times

– Home working

– Staggered hours

– Flexible holidays

After working for their employer for 26 weeks or more, all employees have the legal right to request flexible working.

Creating a staff carer network, an internal network within your workplace that is set up to support the employees who are also carers, can provide carers with valuable peer support. This may involve:

– A virtual network on your internal network platform

– A group chat on an online communication platform such as teams

Importantly, employers can simply ask what carer employees need to feel supported in their role; engaging in an open discussion may improve understandings and enable long-term solutions to be developed.

Supporting carers in the workplace is beneficial both to the carer and the employer, employers can benefit from:

– Improved productivity – employees who have policies in place to support carers are more likely observe enhanced service delivery and increased productivity

– Reduced turnover – balancing care with work can be burdensome, if employees receive the correct support from employers, they are likely to commit to their job

By Tabitha Desmond

Working for Carers is a London-wide project that supports unpaid carers, aged 25 or over, to move closer to employment. The project is led by Carers Trust and delivered by its network of partners across London. Working for Carers is funded by the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund. 

Time Management for Carers

Time Management for Carers

On average research suggests that unpaid carers provide approximately 26 hours of care a week, the equivalent of three full working days. Whereas some carers provide 24-hour care or may be balancing full time employment with their caring duties. Carers may find there are not enough hours in the day, and many may feel socially isolated, or may have to reduce their working hours in order to devote their time to the vulnerable individual they support.

It is critical that caregivers can manage their time effectively in order to reduce stress and enhance their own wellbeing. Here are some useful steps to support carers with their time management, which can help reduce the burden.

Balancing out tasks

As carers you may find you are constantly juggling different responsibilities, to find the right balance it is important to:

– Prioritize your tasks

– Schedule when to work on what

– Put everything in a To-Do List

By being organised and aware of the tasks you have to complete, you can allocate yourself sufficient time to complete the tasks, lightening the load.

Taking time for yourself

It is important to remember that taking time to recharge is productive too. As carers there can be a lot to cope with, finding some time for yourself can help increase happiness and reduce stress levels.

Doing something to relax such as going on a nice walk, watching an episode of your favourite TV show, or running a warm bath can be a great way to soothe your mind.

Flexible working

If you are in employment flexible working could help you to balance your work and caring responsibilities. If you have been with your employers for 6 months then you have the right to request flexible working. This could provide more flexible working hours, job sharing or teleworking which may be more suitable to your needs.

Asking for support

Caring for someone can be a lot to handle, remembering it is ok to reach out for help is important. Reach out to your friends and family and see if they can help, by gaining their support you will have more time available to balance out your responsibilities and to focus on yourself.

We at Harrow Carers can offer a dedicated support network to assist you when caring gets challenging and you are unable to find time for yourself. We try to minimise the burden and improve the quality of your life via guidance and support.

By Tabitha Desmond

Working for Carers is a London-wide project that supports unpaid carers, aged 25 or over, to move closer to employment. The project is led by Carers Trust and delivered by its network of partners across London. Working for Carers is funded by the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund.


4 Ways to Support Mindfulness in Carers

4 Ways to Support Mindfulness in Carers

Have you ever paused and wondered how much time you spend taking care of yourself? The Mental Health Foundation revealed that 71% of carers experience poor physical or mental health. While it’s a huge responsibility to look after your loved one’s well-being, it’s also important that you give equal importance to your own mental and physical health.

You can support yourself, as well as the person you look after, through mindfulness practices. This will encourage you to improve your mental health and well-being by managing your thoughts, emotions, and body. Here are some steps that can help you to feel calmer, more grounded, and more able to manage stress and emotional difficulty.

Practise Deep Breathing

Pause and relax by taking slow, deep breaths. BBC points out that quick, shallow, and unfocused breathing can foster anxiety, depression, and high blood pressure. But when you’re aware of your own breathing, you’ll induce a relaxing sensation both in the brain and the body.

Whenever you feel stressed or tense, you can calm yourself down by focusing on your breath. Start by inhaling slowly through your nose until you can feel your chest and your belly rising. Afterwards, take your time as you exhale the air through your mouth. Repeat this short and simple process until you’re good to go!

Make Yourself Comfortable While Caring for Others

You are on your feet most of the day to carry out tasks and properly cater to your loved one. You also need to exert a lot of physical strength to assist an elderly parent or push a wheelchair. It’s no surprise that after a long hard day, carers like you feel a lot of aches and pains all over your bodies.

With the right tools, you can relieve pain and feel comfortable while caring for others. For instance, you can rest on an ergonomic chair while guarding a resting loved one or feeding them during mealtime. According to Pain Free Working, these chairs can reduce physical pain and lessen the risk of getting injured, since you will need to be in good shape to care for others. Furthermore, a good pair of shoes can provide you support while you’re working on your feet. There are lots of trainers that are designed for comfort, such as this one from Nike. Products like these will soothe your body and prevent pain while you’re looking after others, at the same time!

Focus on One Task at a Time

Carers handle a huge responsibility, and this may make you feel overwhelmed and stressed with your tasks. You may feel inclined to multi-task so you can finish everything quickly. But a distracted and rushed mind will only diminish the quality of the support you can potentially give.

You can gain better control over your tasks by being mindful of your actions. To achieve this, you need to give your full attention to one task at a time! You can also create a schedule so that you can properly allocate your time to each activity.

Dedicate Time for Self-Care

You may feel inclined to focus all of your energy on others and forget to allocate time for the things you enjoy. Though caring is rewarding, we at Harrow Carers believe that you will feel most fulfilled when you have also taken enough time to care for yourself.

Self-care can be anything from taking a long, relaxing bath at night or getting a massage. It can also be just taking a few minutes of your day to read a book or knit! Just simply make time for at least one thing that brings you joy.

The practice of mindfulness teaches people to manage their stress by focusing on what they can sense and control in the present moment. Through these four practices, you can give yourself the love and support that you deserve.

Specially written for by Bridget Jennings