What is carers week?
Carers Week is an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK. This year Carers Week takes place from 11-17 June 2018.
The Carers Week website states that the focus of this year’s Carers Week is “looking at all the ways we can support carers to stay Healthy and Connected.”
Some facts about carers
A carer is someone who provides unpaid care and support to a family member or friend who has a disability, illness, mental health problem, or who needs extra help as they grow older.
The 2011 census revealed that there were 6.5 million people in the UK who are carers. In Scotland, a Scottish Government report states that there are at least 759,000 carers aged 16 and over, and 29,000 young carers in Scotland, who look after a parent, partner, child or friend.
Research by Carers UK, published in 2017, found 40% of unpaid carers had not had a break in over one year, whilst one in four had not received a single day away from caring in five years. Their report, State of Caring 2017, found that carers most frequently listed access to breaks as a key factor which could make a difference in their lives. Respondents explained their own personal reasons for needing a break, ranging from the opportunity to spend time with partners and children, to being able to see a doctor for their own health conditions.
Carers UK also found that carers who had not had a break in a year or more reported a deterioration in their health, both mentally and physically – 8 in 10 carers in Scotland say their health is worse because of caring. Because of the significant impact posed by a lack of personal time, 87% of carers still struggled to attain time away from their care duties.
The 2018 version of the survey is due to publish its results by the end of the year.
This Carers Week seeks to share examples of good practice which have helped carers to stay Healthy and Connected.
Scottish Government action on carers
The Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 took effect from 1 April 2018. The Act extended and enhanced the rights of carers in Scotland to help improve their health and wellbeing, so that they can continue to care, if they so wish, and have a life alongside caring. The Government has also produced a Carers’ charter, setting out the rights of carers in or under the Act.
The Scottish Government has introduced a variety of programmes and initiatives to help support and encourage those who regularly care for their friends, relatives and neighbours. these have included:
- Funding National Carer Organisations to support all unpaid carers
- Providing support to Young Carers.
- Providing support to ensure unpaid carers are able to remain in employment, should they wish, such as by promoting carer-friendly workplace practices through the Carer Positive Scheme.
- The Carers Parliament, a forum providing carers, young carers, and carer representatives from across Scotland an opportunity to discuss and debate matters important to them. The next Carers Parliament is planned for October 2018, with a focus on Young Carers during the Year of Young People 2018.
The Scottish Parliament is a carer positive employer and has its own Carers Network, which supports the organisation in its understanding of the needs of staff with caring responsibilities. The network supports the development of policies and working practices that allow those with caring responsibilities to fulfil their potential. The network is putting on events to celebrate Carers Week 2018, including a Carers Conversation café for Scottish Parliament staff which will be a chance to share and discuss what the role of being a carer means.
Kathryn Appleby-Donald, Collections Manager, SPICe