Making life easier for others by providing the care and support they need is something that around 7 million of us do in the UK every single day. For some that might mean delivering daily care to a family member, a partner or close friend. For others it might just be an occasional trip to the shops, some work in the garden or a lift to a healthcare appointment.
That figure also includes around 800,000 young carers aged between 5-17 who care, or help to care for an adult.
Everyone’s needs are unique and it is important to remember that people care for a number of reasons. For some it might be something they choose to do, in order to help an individual live at home independently. For others, particularly young carers, there may seem to be no other choice.
Practical support for caregivers
It is important to treat each situation as unique, but there is a range of help and support available for all carers. This is to help them cope financially, to offer them a break and to explore a range of different things to make life easier both for themselves and those who rely on their hard work, kindness and compassion.
If a caregiver is over 18 and caring for another adult, then arranging a carer’s assessment is a really good idea. These are carried out by local councils and their purpose is to establish how much of an impact caring has on the carer’s life and how they feel about the care and support they provide.
This can lead to more focused help and support being directed towards the carer themselves, the individual being cared for or even a combination of both.
Local councils have a responsibility to identify and contact young carers in their area. They are assessed to see whether the young person is happy to undertake the caregiver’s role and if it is appropriate to do so. Care and support must be provided by local councils to prevent inappropriate care being delivered by a young person.
Delivering help and support to another person can be a big commitment, one which impacts a caregiver’s ability to study, work and earn money. Many feel awkward or uncomfortable with the prospect of applying for financial support, but it is important to remember that those who undertake caring responsibilities save the UK economy around £132 billion every year*
Carer’s allowance, universal credit and help with things such as fuel bills, TV licenses and council tax are all available for those eligible. The charity, Carers UK has a range of resources on its website, including a useful benefits calculator for carers to check if they might be entitled to claim.
Taking a break
Caring for someone is rewarding but it can also be isolating. It can be a big commitment, leaving little time to do the things we need or want to do.
Taking breaks is important. It’s important to remember also that if plans are in place for the recipient of care, then they may also have opportunities to do different things and meet different people.
Exhaustion, social isolation and mental health problems are all very real risks for caregivers. We might need just a couple of hours each week or an occasional weekend free of care commitments. It is important to put plans in place for these times.
Some caregivers choose to employ a care worker (either through an agency or directly), or ask for support from family and friends. Temporary respite care is also available via the local social services department. There are also a wide range of organisations which specialise in providing everything from days out, short breaks or full holidays for individuals with disabilities or long term illness.
As a carer it is sometimes easy to feel like life is an uphill struggle, but you aren’t alone. Taking the time to get the help and support we deserve is important. It gives caregivers the chance to combine the care and support they deliver with balanced, fulfilling lives of their own.