It’s time we took care of those caring for others

Click HERE to read my latest column in the Wiltshire Gazette and Herald.

Michelle Donelan Column WGH

THIS week is National Carers Week, a week that helps to shine a light on the challenges that carers face and recognise the enormous contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK.

There are millions of people in the UK who are caring for sick, elderly or disabled friends or relatives every day. They selflessly miss out on many life chances because their dedication and commitment and from a lack of support from those of us around them. They do not see themselves as ‘carers’ because they see the support and help they give as part of their normal loving relationship with the person they care for.

More than 6.5 million people voluntarily look after a loved one, according to charity Carers UK. There is an estimated 50,000 in Wiltshire alone, roughly 10 per cent of the population. Three thousand of these are under 24 years old.

There are some huge challenges facing the Government when it comes to looking after carers. A lack of understanding about their own role and the support that is available means many see their own health decline or are forced to give up work or cut their hours. It is a huge challenge to balance employed work with being a carer, but often it is being able to have both that is the key to coping.

We have a problem with caring for carers. In a study of more than 6,000 carers half had let a health problem go untreated or seen their mental health get worse as a direct result of the time and effort they put into looking after their loved one. Fewer than a third said they got the help they need when there is an emergency, while just under half said they had struggled financially.

The Government is doing more to improve the lives of carers in the UK and has improved the legal right for carers enshrined in the Care Act 2014. A new cross-Government National Carers Strategy is being introduced to look at what more can be done to support existing and future carers. The Government is holding a public consultation until June 2016 in order hear from carers directly, and those around them, about the support they need. It is expected that a new strategy will be published by the end of 2016.

In Wiltshire, the council has developed and introduced its Carers Strategy to bring together local organisations to better support our carers.

Carers have told me how important it is that they are supported by local services, doctors, schools and employers. I am a big supporter of Carer Support Wiltshire who do so much to help so many local people. Their role as a voluntary organisation is invaluable. They help carers to access support, services, education and training, and breaks from their caring role. For information and help visit http://carersinwiltshire.co.uk

National Carers Week is all about highlighting the silent heroes in our community whose dedicated love keeps people safe, secure and often living in their own home. Without them our economy and community would collapse overnight. I would personally like to thank each and every one of you.

If you are a carer and need help or advice about the support that is available to you, please contact me on michelle.donelan.mp@parliament.uk or call (01249) 704465.