Our CEO, Jennifer Twist, takes a look back at Carers Week this year.

June is a special and busy month for carers’ organisations, as we campaign together to recognise all that unpaid carers do for our communities.  This year’s Carers Week has been nothing like a ‘normal’ Carers Week, but it’s been great to catch up with lots of carers virtually, through some lively online groups and activities.  These included:

  • our Willingdon Carers Information and Advice Group who welcomed a new member,
  • our Lewes Carers Wellbeing Group discussing coping mechanisms during lockdown and the impact pets can have on your wellbeing,
  • our Crowborough Carers Wellbeing Group, which had three carers join the online group by telephone for the first time using just their landlines, discussing how to combat loneliness during lockdown, and
  • our Seaford Carers Wellbeing Group, discussing the impact of isolating alongside the person they care for.

One of our Carers Card businesses, Hazel Curtis – Holistic Therapy, kindly ran an online relaxation and self-care online session for carers.  We understand that everyone who took part felt relaxed and chilled at the end of it, all without leaving the house!  If you didn’t manage to take part in our online activities but would like to, do get in touch with our team to find out what else we have planned over the coming months.

We also set out to raise awareness through the media, and were delighted that so many of our partner organisations in the local voluntary and statutory sector joined us in getting behind Carers Week on social media.  I particularly enjoyed speaking to Uckfield FM and Hailsham FM, and taking part in the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation’s staff Carers Week event.  It was also great to hear about organisations supporting employees who juggle caring alongside their jobs, including East Sussex County Council who held a staff Carers Week discussion in their internal carers group.

Definition of carer

The Carers Week theme this year was Making Caring Visible – which felt more important than ever.  In recent months we have learned that Coronavirus affects carers disproportionately.  We’ve all felt the pressure of lockdown, but for carers this is on top of the day to day challenges and responsibilities of caring.  Many of the carers we are speaking to are increasingly isolated, distressed and anxious.  Alongside this, the financial impact is significant, and staggering numbers of carers are now reported to be needing to turn to food banks during the crisis.

We also know that Coronavirus disproportionately impacts Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities (BAME) and that more BAME people than ever are becoming carers as a result.  We want BAME carers to know that Care for the Carers is here to support, and that we stand together in challenging injustice, racism and discrimination.

Carers are skilled problem solvers, experienced multitaskers, and many manage hugely complex caring roles alongside work and family.  This is what they have continued to do during lockdown and it is taking its toll.  The recent Carers UK report, Caring Behind Closed Doors, found that 70% of carers have are now providing more care than before. “Over a third are providing that care because of the closure or reduction of local services. Carers were already under pressure before, but now over half (55%) tell us they feel overwhelmed and are worried they are going to burn out in the next few weeks. Unpaid carers are fighting the same battle as care staff and many of our NHS workers: yet they are doing it behind closed doors and with far less recognition. It is unfair that carers are feeling ignored and invisible at this time.” (Carers UK)

So looking back, did Carers Week 2020 Make Caring Visible?  I know lots of our staff and volunteers have missed campaigning in the community this year, but achieving extensive media and social media coverage was a real success.  Nationally, it was just fabulous to see the Queen and Princess Royal meet with a group of carers via Zoom, but hugely disappointing to see senior government ministers not recognising carers in their own right, instead choosing to thank “all carers, paid and unpaid” in their Carers Week messages.  It’s clear that we still have lots more to do.

Please do join us as we continue to find opportunities to speak up about caring.  We’d love to hear from you if you’re a local carer who is happy to share your story, or if you would like to join the Carers Voices Network and influence key decision makers.  We are very much looking forward to discussing the big issues for carers at our Carers Voices Conference taking place online throughout July – I do hope you can join us.