Carers Week 2016: my reflections
David Grayson CBE, Chairman of Carers UK, reflects on Carers Week 2016.
Personally, Carers Week 2016 has felt bittersweet because it is the first Carers Week since my own caring journey came to an end. Reading some of the stories that were shared as part of Carers Week reminded me of how much I miss my mother, who I cared for and who died at the end of last year. Being there for carers at the end of the caring journey is an integral element of building carer friendly communities and working for a society that respects, values and supports carers. Carers UK volunteer Richard wrote a particularly powerful blog about how volunteering now that his 28 years of caring have come to an end has helped him rekindle his motivation to be there for other carers.
Richard volunteered at Guy's Hospital, and is motivated to be there for carers now his own caring role has come to an end – read his blog.
It is inspiring and humbling to visit the Carers Week map and get a sense of event after event, activity after activity – with new relationships between organisations, between carers and others that will last for years. The Carers Week photo album gives a flavour of some of the wonderful events taking place across the UK.
As part of Carers Week it was great to celebrate carer friendly organisations that are already doing wonderful things to support carers. Hertfordshire County Council’s library service work in partnership with Carers in Herts to give extra support for carers by running 'Coffee & Computers' and 'Tea & Tablets' sessions for carers so they could develop their IT skills and share information about library services. In my home city of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University support students with caring responsibilities from before they start through to graduation and beyond.
Hertfordshire County Council's library service work with Carers in Herts to support carers – read more.
As a dedicated Twitter user, I was intrigued by the way that politicians have been engaged in Carers Week – in their locally constituencies, Westminster and in the nations.It is particularly positive that the House of Commons held a debate on carers and caring during Carers UK led by Mims Davies MP. You can read more about Carers Week 2016 in Parliament here. Listening to Radio 4’s Alicia McCarthy’s summary of the debate on Yesterday in Parliament last Friday demonstrates MPs’ personal experience as carers themselves, as well as some of the issues that need to be addressed in the forthcoming Carers’ Strategy for England. There was also a Carers Week speednetworking event where MPs could talk to groups of carers to hear about their experiences and challenges. Paul Bates – who cares for his nine-year-old son Harrison and wife Helen – attended and wrote this blog about his experiences.
Full-time carer Paul Bates at the Carers Week speednetworking event – read about his day here.
The great news is that Carers Week is truly a UK-wide movement. So, Northern Ireland had their new Minister for Health, Michelle O’Neill, who has pledged new actions, the Government in Scotland has pledged more activity, and Wales generated some great media coverage as well as having information in the Welsh Assembly.
Carers Week has become a great opportunity for employers to reach out to employees who are juggling their job and caring for a loved one; and to consult on and/or promote carer policies. For example, the Bank of England Carers Network celebrated its 1st year anniversary, while Sainsbury’s launched a film featuring a number of Sainsbury’s colleagues who are also carers sharing their stories.
As Chairman of Carers UK, which co-ordinates Carers Week, I was particularly chuffed to listen to my fellow trustee Brenda Murray talking about her experience as a carer in various radio interviews.
The week as a whole got some fantastic media coverage, including Carers UK Chief Executive Heléna Herklots being interviewed on ITV Lunchtime News, features on ITV Calendar News and local BBC radio stations. Carers Wales director Keith Bowen was interviewed on ITV News Wales along with carer Linda, who is worried about not being able to continue supporting her husband if she doesn’t start to receive better support herself. Fiona Collie from Carers Scotland was interviewed on BBC Scotland News, following a feature with carer and Carers UK volunteer Julie Clark.
Julie spoke on BBC Scotland news about the realities of caring around the clock for her son.
Carers Week is a collaborative venture between a number of leading charities and it demonstrates the power of organisations working together to raise the profile of carers and caring.
Carers UK volunteer Jacqui Darlington – getting some help to build Carer Friendly Communities with her son!
A huge thank you to everyone who made pledges, organised events, spoke up for carers – we couldn't have done it without you.