Carers Week (7 to 13 June) is an annual national initiative to raise awareness about unpaid caring, challenges the unpaid carers face, and recognition of the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK. It also helps people who don’t think of themselves as having caring responsibilities to identify as carers and access much-needed support. In this blog, Mollie Delaney, Sharon Hammond and Kemi Bandele- Forbes from Camden Carers, talk about the various initiatives the team at Camden Carers have taken during the pandemic to support unpaid carers.
We at Camden Carers have been providing support to unpaid carers living and working in Camden for over 25 years. Caring unpaid for someone you love or care about can be challenging under normal circumstances, but the last year has been even harder for many of our carers. Alongside the day-to-day caring role, carers have also had the added challenges of shielding those they care for and those who are extremely vulnerable. Many carers experienced feelings of loneliness and isolation, challenges in accessing medication and food, limited access to respite and home-schooling. Many carers have not had a break for over a year!
Response to the pandemic
In our initial response to the pandemic, we contacted over 1,000 carers by phone, arranged food parcels and medication pickups, provided additional counselling/emotional services to carers who were struggling and supported carers to access financial support. We transferred our in-person services to be delivered remotely, which included many of our longstanding groups and activities, where carers would usually meet face-to-face to share experiences and do the things that they enjoy; art classes, yoga and walking tours. We also continued to offer much-needed practical support for carers via our Support & Wellbeing Line and valuable employment and training support through our Working For Carers project.
Young Adult Carers
Following this initial contact exercise, we soon realised that we needed a greater understanding of the challenges carers were facing in order to tailor our services appropriately. Over the summer, we consulted with a large number of young adult carers (18-30 years), mental health carers and carers of people with learning disabilities. Many of these carers reported that their mental health had deteriorated since the first lockdown in March 2020:
- 63% of mental health carers
- 60% of young adult carers
- 46% of carers of people with learning disabilities
Realising the scale of the problem, we introduced new and extended services including Emotional Skills sessions for young adult carers and Emotional Support teleconferencing for those carers who were unable to engage online.
Overall, we were able to double the capacity of our counselling service by recruiting more counsellors, offering more appointments and reducing waiting times from 2 months to one week. We are extremely proud of the support we were able to offer to carers during that period particularly as many other services had closed.
Black Carers Collective
It has been well-documented nationally, that the pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on many who already face disadvantage and discrimination, particularly those from excluded communities. As a diverse borough, we were acutely aware of how this could impact the carers that we support. Our Equality & Diversity group began to focus on ways in which we could better engage with and support excluded communities. One of our successes has been establishing the Black Carers Collective.
Following consultation with Black carers, the Black Carers Collective launched in September and offers a culturally safe space for Black carers to meet, discuss and celebrate on a monthly basis.
Conversations with many of our Black carers highlighted that vaccine hesitancy was a significant issue and we collaborated with staff from Public Health England and Bloomsbury Vaccination Hub to offer two culturally sensitive Q&A sessions. The sessions received great feedback with many Black carers saying their concerns were alleviated and that they finally felt comfortable enough to book their vaccine appointment.
The theme for Carers Week this year is “Making Caring Visible and Valued”. It’s important that carers are recognised for all of their hard work. In fact, unpaid Carers save the economy £132 billion per year, an average of £19,336 per carer.
As we start to come out of the pandemic and approach Carers Week, our carers have told us that they are longing to meet in person with other carers. We have been able to organise fantastic visits for Kew Gardens, London Zoo and Health Hands. We also have a full timetable of online events including creative writing, mindfulness, nutrition and massage. We want to ensure that carers have an amazing Carers Week, as we understand the challenges they have faced over the past year and that they deserve a much-needed break away from their caring role.
You can find more information about Carers Week and local activities via the following link – https://www.carersweek.org/
More information regarding Camden Carers and the services that we provide can be found on the website.
If you or someone you know is an unpaid Carer within Camden, please either call on 020 7428 8950 or view the website for more details on how to register.