Becoming a carer, whether full-time or part-time, is challenging for anyone, but more so for those that are elderly themselves or for those who are very young, teenagers or young carers. Carers can come from all walks of life. Many carers have families of their own or have jobs or are in education and must manage other commitments in addition to the caring role they have taken on.
When we talk to carers, words that they often use to describe how they feel are; stress, tiredness, lonely, guilt, anger, fatigue, irritation, depressed and sad were a few. They spend long hours looking after their loved ones, often with no time off or breaks, leaving them socially isolated and overwhelmed. Whilst many carers take on the caring role voluntarily, a large majority feel they have no choice. If, for example, it’s a parent who needs care, children often feel a sense of obligation and guilt to look after them. Or it could be a disabled child who needs his or her parent to look after them. When the caring role is that of a close family member or friend, where emotional bonds run deep, the carer is usually focussed on the needs of their loved one, neglecting their own. This results in low self-esteem, a lack of confidence, a loss of personal identity and often depression.
For carers to do their jobs well, we need to take active steps to look after them and their needs.
So, what does a carer need? The simple answer is consistent and easily accessible help and support.
1. Financial Support
Many carers have given up their jobs to care for their loved one full time or have reduced their working hours resulting in lower incomes, reduced pensions and fewer job prospects. The Government recognises this and carers are entitled to Carers Allowance as long as you work as a carer for at least 35 hours each week. Additionally, Carer Grants can become a financial resource to make ends meet.
Carer grants from local councils share Government funding received between social services, local carer groups and charities.
Whilst there is financial support available for carers, it may be overwhelming to get the process going and understanding what the eligibility criteria are, what forms need to be filled, where do the forms need to be sent, etc.
If you are a carer, we recommend that you visit your local carer centre (link/tel) and speak to an advisor who will guide you through the process of accessing additional financial support and help you with application forms, filling them out, sending them to the right people and helping you in any way you need.
2. Emotional & Wellbeing Support
This is probably the most important need of a carer. The long hours of caring for a loved one, coupled with the emotional toll and frustration of seeing a loved one suffer, can leave a care vulnerable to depression, stress and feelings of inadequacy and loneliness. We’ve often met carers who have told us that they simply need someone to talk to or someone who would just listen to them.
There are several local carer centres and charities like Harrow Carers(Link to website) who conduct workshops on mindfulness, stress-relief and yoga and have trained counsellors and therapists who work closely with carers, supporting them through their emotional and mental challenges.
If you are a carer, struggling to cope, please contact your local carer centre or call xxx xx ( is there a helpline they can call?) who will direct you to the closest carer centre or charity in your area.
3. Employment Support
Finding work that fits around caring for a loved one or after they are no longer carers (in the event of a bereavement), can be a challenge for many carers. If they have been full time carers for several years and have been out of the work force, they often lack the confidence and necessary skills to re-enter the workforce. Many don’t know how to write CV’s and cover letters or what to wear for an interview or even what to say in an interview. They need handholding to even begin the process. We have met carers who are able to take a part-time, flexible role, but don’t know where to look for such roles.
That’s where projects like Working for Carers(link) can help. Working for Carers focuses on helping unpaid carers get back into the workforce, keeping their needs, abilities and circumstances in mind and working with them to find the most workable employment solutions to their specific situations.
4. Support after they stop being carers
What happens to a carer after they stop being carers? If the person they are looking after passes away or moves into a care facility, the person looking after them may feel lost and without purpose. They may need bereavement or grief counselling, help with finding employment and generally re-entering society through support groups and counselling.
Local carer centres and charities such as Carers Trust, or Carers UK, Harrow Carers, will be able to help. If this is you, please do not hesitate to contact your local carer centre or charity or call 020 8868 5224 for help.
Carers are a vital part of UK society, contributing over £100 billion to the economy. With the ageing population, the number of unpaid carers in the UK will only grow, increasing the importance for support for carers. Whilst they are looking after the needs of people unable to take care of themselves, as a society we must look after their needs.
Here’s how you can help.