There are six million informal carers in the UK. By being informal
they save the state about £57bn a year – an amount that if
left to the taxpayer would roughly require the basic rate of income
tax to be raised to 79 per cent.
Nonetheless, there are thousands of carers who don’t realise they
are carers or don’t consider themselves to be so. So, part of
Carers’ Week was to reach out to those who are yet unknown.
The “Catch a Carer” project is a joint venture between Burnley
central library and Carers Contact – part of the local council for
voluntary services. “I have a son with severe learning difficulties
and have worked in libraries for 25 years,” says Carole
Wolstenholme, special needs co-ordinator at the library. “I reduced
my hours at work and never realised that I was entitled to top-up
benefits. It made me think that if information was going by me, who
else is missing out?”
As the project title suggests, it’s about catching carers who are
slipping through the net. “So many don’t access services or tap
into support as they don’t identify themselves as carers,” adds Pat
Faulkner carer liaison officer for Carers Contact, who will be
joined at a stand at the library by a welfare rights officer.
“Being central and with a large mix of people dropping in, the
library is great place to reach out from.”
Importantly it’s not a one-off, one-week-only project. Wolstenholme
is training library staff on carer awareness, “to make sure that
they know what is available and they feel comfortable in
signposting,” she says. It is hoped that all libraries in the
district will take on the project permanently as well.
Capturing hidden carers was also a strong focus of the week at the
UK’s favourite seaside resort, Blackpool. “This year we visited
community hospitals,” says carers development worker, Kerry Lynch,
“because that’s where people are before being discharged home. Last
year we targeted GP surgeries and pharmacies.”
As the theme for Carers’ Week was “work, rest and play”,
Blackpool’s carers team offered a course in laughter therapy. Lynch
says 30 carers were expected to attend and it would aim at raising
spirits. “Carers are often socially excluded and spend so much time
focusing on the person they are caring for – they forget about
Similarly a spring walk around a nature reserve was organised “to
help get people outdoors as a lot of their time is spent indoors.
And it links in with promoting people’s health,” she adds.
Also for the first time Blackpool is targeting carers who are also
employees of the council. “I was approached by the Department for
Work and Pensions to do a talk for their staff. And I thought it
was a bit rich doing something for another organisation when we
hadn’t done it for our own staff,” Lynch says. “So, we’re providing
a day-long drop-in session with representatives from the carers
team, human resources and welfare rights on hand to let people know
what rights, services and supports are available in the
But further north in sparsely populated Cumbria, where transport
and isolation are the major issues, Carers’ Week was at the wrong
time for young carers.
“We’re waiting until the school holiday period,” says Ann Allcoat,
manager, Eden Carers. “For young carers school is often respite;
not so during the holidays.”
An art and craft day and a trip to Diggerland in Durham awaits.