This year’s Carers Week theme is 'I Care' – because almost all of us will care at some point in our lives and recognising that as soon as it happens is so important. Perhaps, like with my own experience, you think someone else is the primary carer so your input isn’t as a carer – or perhaps you think you are just being a husband or wife, a son or daughter, a friend or neighbour helping out or doing what you signed up to do – but recognising yourself as a carer as soon as your caring journey starts can help in so very many ways.
19 million people have experience of caring and yet shockingly have never identified themselves as a carer. It’s a persistent issue, and with one in five of us currently caring, one that Carers UK, along with our Carers Week charity supporters Age UK, Carers Trust, Motor Neurone Disease Association, Oxfam, Rethink and The Lewy Body Society, want to highlight, tackle and reduce.
Why? Because our research shows it has a significant detrimental effect on carers themselves when they miss out on vital support - 8 million stating it impacted on their own health negatively. And then there’s the impact it has on our ability to work – with 600 people a day giving up work to care. Hopefully this will improve now that, after years of campaigning, landmark legislation in the form of the Carer's Leave Act to give five days of unpaid Carer's Leave has received Royal Assent. But even so juggling work and care is really hard – doing so without sharing that caring responsibility with your employer because you yourself don’t recognise it means you won’t have the chance of that flexibility and support. It is for all of us to take responsibility to recognise people who are caring and make sure they get the support they need and are entitled to and that includes employers.
As we seamlessly segued from the Covid pandemic to the cost of living crisis, everyone has been impacted financially by the state of the economy. But there are literally millions who are experiencing the financial impact of caring with devastating examples of how carers are cutting back simply to make ends meet. No one should have to make a choice between eating or heating – no one should have to think about whether they can afford to keep vital medical equipment switched on – but these are the choices unpaid carers are making day in day out.
Carers have told us that by not identifying as a carer, they’ve missed out on vital support as a result. That support can be financial, workplace flexibility, emotional or practical support – whatever it is – it is vital that we raise awareness of caring so people don’t miss out on support and find that they can no longer care safely and well – With our new research from the University of Sheffield showing carers’ support is valued at a staggering £162 billion across England and Wales – it is imperative that we ensure carers are supported, recognised and valued.
Every employer who raises awareness will make a difference. Every person who tells their friends and family about caring will make a difference. Every health worker who identifies a carer will make a difference. Every charity that provides support will make a difference. Whether it’s simply saying 'I Care' and sharing your personal experience, or saying that you care about carers and will do something to help raise awareness, it will make a difference to carers’ lives.
Join in, help spread the word and please help us to make a difference to carers this Carers Week and say 'I Care'.