Healthwatch Essex Information and Signposting Lead, Sharon, shares details of the Essex Carers Partnership Summit event she attended as part of National Safeguarding Adults Awareness week. The event attendees included many individuals and agencies concerned with improving the support and resources made available to the huge number of carers living in Essex.
A very important question that arose early in the event was ‘who are our carers?’ According to carers support agency, Carers First Essex, there are over 145,000 people in the county providing care to a friend or relative who would not otherwise manage without their help. The additional support may be due to physical health conditions, age, mental health conditions or disability.
Many assume that in order to be a carer, you have to be employed by an agency, perform personal care tasks, or spend a minimum amount of hours per week in the caring role. In reality, carer roles are complex, with no two being identical. People can become a carer unexpectedly; they can be of any age, including children, may or may not be employed and may or may not have an existing health condition themselves.
The individuals providing the care often do not see themselves as doing anything exceptional; they step into taking on extra roles and responsibilities simply because the person they care about needs them to do so. If asked, they would not identify themselves as a carer, and it would not occur to them that they may be eligible for a range of support for themselves and the person they care for.
However, it is recognised that people who provide unpaid care are a huge asset to our community, and there are avenues available to access different kinds of support which can make all the difference. Depending on the circumstances, extra help available can include;
- respite care
- advice & support
- day care
- social activities
- access to aids & adaptations
- support groups
The extra help mentioned above is available through agencies such as Carers First, as well as Essex County Council who can offer a Carers Assessment. The assessment is free and can be requested by anyone over the age of 18 if they are providing regular care to someone. It is not means-tested and it provides an evaluation of the additional help that the carer is entitled to. It is not a way of judging the care that is being provided, rather it is an acknowledgement of it.
It is important that the carers within the community are recognised and respected for the invaluable role that they fulfil for the people they care for, and society as a whole.
Healthwatch Essex can give you information about services in your area which can help to support you as a carer or a person who requires support with their care. Click here for ways of contacting us.