Weekend Diagnosis: Our hidden workforce of unpaid carers

Published: 22 June 2016

Mairead McAlindenThis Weekend Diagnosis is from Mairead McAlinden, our Chief Executive

Many of you reading this article will be a carer or know someone who is. But do you know just how vitally important carers are? The value of what they do to support relatives or friends who are ill or have a disability, have issues with mental health or dependency on drugs or alcohol, or who need help as they get older and less independent is immeasurable. Even though we can never place a value on what unpaid carers do, we can say that this hidden workforce in the community provides almost as much care (£132 billion) as it costs to run the entire NHS (£134 billion).

Many people don’t like to be called ‘carers’, they do what they do out of love, respect and the very best sense of duty to improve the lives of the people they care for.

We as a society should be proud that more people are able to live longer in the place of their choice – at home or in local communities – rather than in the hospitals or institutions. However, this change means we in health and social care services must work with and support our carers as the number of people needing care continues to increase.

The role our carers play in providing expert care for some of the most vulnerable people in the community cannot be valued highly enough. For these people – many of whom are young people still attending school, are juggling their caring role with work and family commitments, or are older people with health needs of their own – caring is not a role with set hours or annual leave; it is a commitment which means they can be ‘on-call’ 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

We recently celebrated National Carer’s Week (6-12 June) where unpaid carers from across Torbay enjoying some well-deserved ‘time out’ for fun and relaxation at a series of events.

Carers Week celebrates the vital, and often unseen, role of unpaid carers. Many events took place across the Bay, with an emphasis on carers having some time for themselves. The events were all aimed at promoting the wellbeing of carers and recognising the important role they play in our community.

There is support out there for people who are in caring role, and the easiest way to find out about these services is to apply for registration to the Carers scheme. Being on the Carer’s Register means that there is a back-up plan for the person that you care for which gives peace of mind, but it also gives access to information, newsletters, free courses for carers, discounts and much more.

Our dedicated Carers Services Team really want to help – they held a series of special events for Carers Week in Torbay to mark those few very special days in the year when a carer can go to events arranged just for them. We want to continue to spread the word, the Carers Team has developed a wide range of information available to carers and we have launched a ‘Torbay Carers’ Facebook page. If you have a Facebook page/ profile, please like us so that you can follow the latest news and events!

For more information about support go to our website www.torbayandsouthdevon.nhs.uk/carers or ring 01803 666620 for unpaid carers of people in Torbay / 0300 300 0434 for unpaid carers of people in Devon.

Information on national Carers Week can be found via: www.carersweek.org.