Counselling can benefit carers’ caring

Marianne Kolbuszewski highlights the work of
carers’ centres in providing counselling for carers.

The National Strategy for Carers acknowledged
the work of local carers’ centres in helping carers obtain the
support to continue in their demanding role.

One of the things carers’ centres emphasise in
dealing with local authorities is the extent to which carers are
saving the taxpayer money. In the London Borough of Southwark alone
there are 26,000 unpaid carers who save local taxpayers something
like £265 million per year. There is little doubt that the
community care system depends on carers continuing to care. So
getting the support to carers right is something that is in all our

Much of the support that carers require is
practical – advice on benefits, breaks from caring and workshops on
back care. But we would argue that emotional support is also vital
for health and well-being. Caring is a stressful business. Our
recent annual survey revealed that half of respondents suffered
depression as a result of their caring role. It also revealed that
68 per cent of carers spent 50 hours or more per week caring.

The aim of supporting carers is to help them
continue caring if that is what they want. We often find that
carers do not want to leave the cared-for person. They wish to
remain in the situation, but find it very helpful to talk about
their concerns. Counselling helps carers discover inner resources,
so that caring becomes a positive choice rather than a desperate

Some centres are able to provide counselling
that is designed to meet the emotional needs of carers. It tackles
the carer’s view of their situation and helps them see themselves
as people in their own right. It can help to foster independence
and self-worth.

Being a carer will often mean coming face to
face with prolonged or extreme pain and suffering. This can give a
sense of powerlessness, or a sense that life is meaningless, or a
loss of connection with “normal” society. Counselling can help
carers accept suffering as something that is regrettable, but a
part of life.

Counselling is also valuable because it allows
us to see the person as a whole, with a history which will affect
their present response to a caring situation. We can work to change
the response, allowing carers to view the situation from a fresh
perspective, freed of any compulsion to repeat old patterns of

Yet despite the value of counselling, funding
for dedicated staff to run a service is unusual. Although some
centres are able to offer counselling, it is largely on a voluntary
basis. Providing emotional support to carers through counselling
needs to be acknowledged as a vital aspect of caring for carers,
which the National Strategy for Carers insisted was so important,
and the resources made available accordingly.

Marianne Kolbuszewski is counselling
development manager and Gary Kitchen is director of Southwark

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