I was 17 years old when I first became a carer, although I didn’t know that term all those decades ago. I was just helping my mum, my dad and my younger brother by doing what was needed at the time, because I loved them dearly.
My mum had been in hospital for a hysterectomy and there had been some complications but it wasn’t until she came home and I was looking after her that we found out her recovery was not going to be straight forward. There was an unexpected knock on the door and a visit from a GP to tell my mum that she had cancer, would need further treatment and at that point they didn’t know how long she’d live.
This was devastating news for my mum and me – I grew up in the instant that, when my mum turned to me and said, ‘what shall I do’? I had no real answer except to help her up off the floor where she’d collapsed, say I’d make her a cup of tea and call my dad and everything would be OK.
That was back in the mid 70s and now there is a lot more support for both people with cancer and those who support and care for them. But not everyone realises they are a carer or knows what support might be available or how to access any help.
The help that unpaid carers give today to support their loved ones or friends and neighbours is invaluable to the cared for and also health and social care services.
In Greater Manchester there are approximately 280,000 carers who not only support individual members of their families or friends but who also make up a crucial part of the health and social care system. However people who care for others often struggle to get the support they need to maintain their own health and have a life themselves.
The Care Act 2014 was designed to improve support for carers but many are still struggling to get the help they need. The Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership want to change this for the better and in January 2018 the Carers Charter and Commitment was launched.
The charter and commitment was designed by carers and is supported by the voluntary, community and social enterprise groups, Councils, NHS England and NHS organisations in Greater Manchester. Voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations, led by Lynne Stafford, Chief Executive of the Gaddum Centre, have ensured that carers voices are at the heart of the work to date and will be in the future.
So is the job done now in Greater Manchester? Not yet, is the answer – but the charter maps out the rights of carers so that:
As a carer you can expect
To be identified as a carer as early as possible, be informed, be respected and included by health and social care professionals
- To have choice and control about your caring role, get the personalised support you need as a carer to meet you and your family’s needs
- To be able to stay healthy and well yourself, and for your own needs and wishes as an individual to be recognised and supported
- To be socially connected and not isolated
- To be supported to fulfil educational and employment potential, and where possible in maintaining employment
- If you are a young carer or young adult carer, to be supported so you are able to thrive and develop educationally, personally and socially, and you are protected from excessive or inappropriate caring roles.
If only Worcestershire, where I lived with my parents, had had such a charter when I was 17 and that with just a little help some of my anxieties and my dad’s could have been heard and supported? Whilst I’d do it all again in a heartbeat I did miss some schooling, dropped an ‘A’ level and remained anxious for many years after that although I did get to college, fortunately.
I’m proud to join the Carers Strategy Group as Chair and Champion for carers to help promote the considerable work that has already been undertaken and to ensure that the work of carers in Greater Manchester is valued and that carers themselves are supported to have their own life too.
This carers week in 2018 I pledge to work hard to highlight, and celebrate carers in Greater Manchester and to promote awareness of carers and the value they bring to individuals and society. Equally, I want to share examples of organisations or groups who provide high quality support for carers so that they can stay healthy and connected.
What will your pledge be for carers week?
You can share it at https://www.carersweek.org.
Independent Chair Carers Strategy Group & Carers Champion
Greater Manchester Health & Social Care Partnership