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Speaking up for carers – May 2020

In April I promised to keep you updated as to what Carers UK is doing to represent carers at the heart of government, the NHS and within the devolved parliaments. In addition, what we are doing to support you directly through this ever-changing and challenging period. I want to reassure you that we are 100% committed to pushing carers higher up the agenda of this crisis to be recognised for the care you are providing, to be given the equipment and practical support that you need to continue to care, and to ensure you are prioritised in any recovery plan the Government and NHS develop in order to transition you and those you care for quickly and effectively into whatever the ‘new normal’ is.

In the past month, we carried out unique research with our members, surveying thousands of unpaid carers around the country about their experiences during Covid-19 right now, what has changed and what they are finding difficult. We are listening to you and raising awareness of the issues you raise in all realms and we will keep monitoring the impact the pandemic is having on you. We worked quickly to establish some of the patterns, and launched the shocking findings in a report 'Caring Behind Closed Doors: forgotten families in the coronavirus outbreak’. This was shared widely with politicians and policy makers, national and local organisations, and received much media coverage including on the BBC news at 6pm and 10pm on the day of launch. As a member of the NHS Assembly I shared the report with the decision makers of the NHS and continue to promote the value and importance of supporting carers across the health service as the assembly feeds into plans for the next phase of the pandemic. We continue to engage with ministers regularly, feeding into their planning, as we are determined that the voice of carers is heard.

We are also raising awareness of the experiences of unpaid carers during the crisis in the media, contributing every week to national and local media articles helping to explain the challenges for unpaid carers, outline the support available and making clear what Government needs to do to help them.

We continue to make the case for testing and PPE for unpaid carers. Thanks to our work unpaid carers are now on the Government list of those prioritised for testing which we know will relieve a lot of worry for some, particularly those who need to move in and out of their homes to carry out their caring responsibilities and work. We continue to make the case for giving unpaid carers access to PPE.

In part our arguments are strengthened by the great progress that we have made in Scotland including access to PPE and the Scottish Government proposing a £230.10 special one-off Coronavirus Carer's Allowance Supplement in June. We are calling on the UK Government to do the same. But what we really want is Carer’s Allowance raised permanently and we are constantly raising this in all our communications. Our Director of Wales, now the Chair of the Wales Carers Alliance, meets weekly with decision makers in the Welsh Government to push them to consider carers in their plans. In Northern Ireland we’ve secured funding to be a part of the national helpline supporting unpaid carers during the crisis. We joined Oxfam in its open letter to all MPs about the poverty facing so many carers and undertook media commitments around this to underline the point.  We continue to work with DEFRA to highlight the issues facing carers and accessing food, and what supermarkets could do to support carers. Since this crisis started, you have been asking for ID as a means of showing that you need more support with supermarkets but also to explain why you need to go out and about. As well as sharing practice of different schemes, we’ve been encouraging Governments across the four nations to take this forward as well.

I mentioned in April that we had extended our Helpline on a short-term basis for eight hours a day five days a week. This is now nine hours a day, five days a week, and we have secured funding to guarantee this level of service for 12 months. We want to be here to support you whatever your question is as this pandemic evolves and as different restrictions are lifted and new challenges are presented. We have constantly updated our advice pages and have worked hard to make sure that they are signposted to by Government and other services so that carers can find help as easily as possible.

Most recently we have moved our ‘care for a cuppa’ online to support carers directly during this crisis. We have these in Wales and across the UK, they are weekly and will be daily during Carers Week. We recognise the fact that carers need others who understand right now – that you don’t have much time, but an online chat with a cup of tea and other carers can make a huge difference - just to know you are not alone and you are not alone - Carers UK is standing shoulder to shoulder with you and will be your voice – we will learn from these and share your concerns with ministers whenever we can.

Finally, I’m looking forward to Carers Week 8th-14th June where we will be doing even more to make caring visible and recognise the huge efforts of carers through this crisis and beyond.

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