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Families and Communities caring during lockdown

For the past few months, we have all been living under the shadow of Coronavirus. Our communities have been locked down with a lot of carers and their loved ones shielding or self-isolating.  It has been a trying time for most of us but, for many of you, this has been a very worrying time and you have had to overcome a lot of additional challenges.  We’ve heard from you about concerns on a wide range of issues. Carers have told us about their need for provision of PPE equipment, the conflicting and confusing information coming from the different governments in Wales and Westminster, confusion about shielding and self-isolating, worrying about how you will cope if you become ill.  Quite a lot of you have told us that you are feeling overwhelmed, unrecognised and undervalued.  From the research that we did, we also know that you have been going above and beyond because of necessity and the drive to keep yourselves and your loved ones safe.

Yet there have been some positive sides to the Coronavirus outbreak to, as it seems to have enabled a lot of families and communities to come together and find creative ways to support each another.   Where I live in a small street in the south Wales valleys, we have always had a strong community spirit and most people already know each other, however  more than ever before, I see the young and old in the local community coming together and reach out to carers, the elderly and vulnerable.   I see people consider others, offer help with shopping, any local errands and generally being thoughtful and more mindful to look out for each other. 

My local community has truly come together, every Saturday at bang on 7pm, we have a weekly street social distancing bingo session.  I reflected the other day when everyone was out on the pavement and counted up how many people had caring responsibilities.  Counting 18 households from the top of the street to mine, 12 houses have unpaid family carers with some also having paid care workers helping them with their day to day life.  From Sian who has her own disability looking after her 94 year old mother Blod a few doors away to Liz looking after her two disabled grandchildren, and my elderly neighbour cared for by her family and care workers, I wonder how many realise they are carers and that’s just the top of the street!  I would challenge you all to take a look around your own neighbourhood and identify carers.  Caring because of whatever reason will affects us all at some point in our lives.

Families are finding new ways to support one and another with many learning swiftly how to access videocalls to stay in touch and doing online shopping for loved ones.  Although zoom/skype isn’t the same as face to face contact, it’s the next best thing and a lot of people are learning valuable new skills. 

The ability to use technology has opened a whole new world to many people and, when we go back to whatever the new ‘normal’ will look like, it may be a positive way for you to get involved with more people and activities..  I think this could be especially important for those looking after your loved ones who can’t easily  leave home therefore allowing for  more ‘virtual’ social contact.

I honestly think that even though the Coronavirus pandemic has brought many challenges a lot of positive things will come out of it.  From a professional point of view, it will enable Carers Wales as an organisation to be able to better include you.  For reasons relating to your caring responsibilities you may not have been able to have a voice, be able to take part in events or get involved in our work.  By using technology we will be able to reach more of you across Wales .   I think it is safe to say that as an organisation, we have invested in new technology and have been working at home from the beginning of the lockdown.  It has opened our eyes and we will be looking to make more use of technology to reach out and engage with you in the future.  Watch this space!

Beth Evans - Wales Policy Manager

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