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Building a union for unpaid carers - Carers UK Forum

Building a union for unpaid carers

Discuss news stories and political issues that affect carers.
Some time ago I took part in discussions about the formation of a union for unpaid carers. I have now formed such an organisation and am looking for support to help the idea spread. Info about it can be found at www.carersunion.org.uk

At this point our main challenge is growth and tackling the widespread belief that nothing ever changes or can change. Plus there are already lots of carers groups across the country (largely set up under the aegis of local authorities) which tend to have their agendas (and expectations) set for them by those authorities. I have found it hard to convince some carers that they are wasting their time in such groups and tried to persuade them to have things on their terms, not the local authority's. Others have been only too ready to join, having become thoroughly disillusioned with lack of progress.

More encouragingly, some in our council and social services have reacted positively to the idea; they welcomed dealing with us as a representative group, and promised full co-operation. We are currently about to have an official public launch in our area (Wirral) and hope to simplify the situation for carer representation here following that.

If all goes well we would soon be looking to expand into other areas of the UK (as has been my intention from the start) using a fairly loose branch structure model. This is currently something the Chairperson is looking into.

I have always felt, for the amount and value of the work that unpaid carers carry out year upon year, that they had insufficient representation. Carers UK is the best we have at present – but as a charity they can only take us so far. This is why the model of Community Co-operative appealed to us – equal ownership; one member, one vote. We are self-resourcing via a small subscription (£3.50/month) and this means no dependence on external funding, local authorities or health bodies. We have a strong platform to campaign from, and the strongest of arguments for reform. I welcome any help/comments you may offer.
Keep us updated,

I will keep the boards updated on progress but feel I should stress that unity is the only way we're going to win. There needs to be a central point around which all can rally, and I hope that the Carers' Union will be perceived as such in time.

We are also thinking of offering membership out of the immediate geographical area of the Wirral (where we're based) on the proviso that until those areas had established their own committees and service provision, the aspect of face to face support is not going to be available. Where we are based we can attend meetings with our members as a means of support or go out to visit them, but can only travel as far as is practicable.

Set against this is the desire to have a large memberhsip, as the whole idea of forming a union and dealing with local and central government on equal terms only works if we have the numbers. At present, as I have intimated, local authorities (and Social Services) have an involvement with carers very much on their own terms; the plan that we have is to insist on official recognition as part of a Joint Consultation & Negotiation Committee (all councils have these). This way we are independent, can form our own agenda, and avoid running around like laboratory mice for social services to be able to tick their boxes. I would welcome anyone's thoughts and experiences on involvement at the local level, plus what people think about us offering membership further afield, as the committee wants to avoid any feeling of a 2-tier membership.
ludwig,caring isn't a job nor is it political,we can't strike,most people are too busy to get political about ther predicament,why don't you put your fight to better use and fight for your caree,if your not happy with what your doing don't do it,your supposed to do it for love of the person not for money,get on the right benefits and live with what you have coming in,the union idea is the biggest load of clap trap i've heard in ages
I disagree malc. If you don't like the idea that's okay, but others might and it's up to them if they choose to support/join.
I disagree too. Caring is not seen as a job, but given it saves taxpayers £119 bn a year it should be. Many carers are stretched to the limits by insufficient benefits or other support. I know I was when I was caring for my father (who died earlier this year) and feel that I was thoroughly exploited. I don't doubt things are better now, but when I solicited the forums with the idea of proper representation for unpaid carers people were almost exclusively enthusiastic. From the (unpaid) work I have done for carers over the last 6 years or so I still get the impression most are dissatisfied with the lack of recognition or control over their lives. Ultimately the success or failure of the union depends on whether carers feel they want that degree of influence with local and national government. I understand that not everyone will, but I looked after my father for absolutely the right reasons, and was quite happy to do it. What I'm contending is that carers themselves also need looking after. The 10 years of my life spent keeping my heavily disabled father at home extracted a heavier price from me than it should have, and I suspect I'm not the only one.