Councils fail to account for race

The issue of carers being hidden is a familiar one but the problem
is particularly acute within some ethnic minority communities,
according to charities.

People from ethnic minorities may not recognise the term carer and
so are less likely to identify themselves as being one. Helping
people to do so is one of the aims of this week’s Carers Week, run
by the Multiple Sclerosis Society and carers’ charities Carers UK,
the Princess Royal Trust for Carers, and Crossroads.

By not identifying themselves as carers, people from ethnic
minorities who perform a caring role miss out on the benefits,
services and rights they are entitled to, says Cecilia Tsang,
advice and representation officer for black carers at Carers
London, a part of Carers UK.

“The term carer doesn’t exist in their home countries. It’s quite
new to them and all sorts of benefits and rights that come along
with that, they have no idea about,” she says.

Ethnic minority carers also find it very difficult to gain access
to social and health services, she says. “Part of the problem is
the language barrier and the fact that they don’t understand the

One Asian woman who has cared for her two mentally ill sons for six
years says she has encountered some professionals with preconceived
notions about ethnic minorities and that this hinders carers
obtaining services.

She says that when the first of her sons became ill and she went
with him to see the psychiatrist she felt that she was being blamed
for his illness. The psychiatrist asked her son whether she had
forced him to go to university, and she believes this may have been
due to a preconception that Asian families force their children
into higher education.

She says that she didn’t receive any support services until three
years after she began caring, by which time she was also caring for
her other son.

Some professionals also hold preconceptions about Asian people
having extended families who will be able to help look after sick
relatives and friends, she says. “They think that we have got an
extended family somewhere that can help. But without asking they
don’t know,” she says.

Funding is another issue. Jeanette Haider, interim manager at
Carers London, says there is a shortage of social care funding
generally, and that for ethnic minority carers this is compounded
by the fact their needs are hidden. “As yet, these hidden needs
have not been addressed by social services,” she says.

Haider believes that, ideally, each London local authority should
be clear about who leads on carers’ issues. However, not all

While some boroughs with a large ethnic minority population provide
a specific service or employ a black carer support worker, others
with smaller numbers do not, Haider says. “All the smaller
communities are a bit isolated.”

Tsang says that councils need to audit carers’ needs through
consultation or focus groups with ethnic minorities and by working
closely with community groups and centres to gain a better
understanding of needs in carers’ communities. She adds that this
would also enable councils to work out the most suitable service
delivery option in order to cater for carers’ cultural and social

Local authorities should also fund local community centres to
deliver culturally tailored services to support carers and to
provide council staff with training on issues such as diversity,
culture and religion, she adds.

The Carers (Equal Opportunities) Bill currently going through
parliament aims to give carers new rights to information and
greater choices and opportunities for work and education. But until
all carers identify themselves as such, any improved measures will
fail to reach many of those they are intended to help.   For more
on Carers Week go to

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