National Carers Week (8th- 14th June) is off to a flying start with the release of a special recording by Scottish musician and young carer Isla Ratcliff to thank Scotland’s 700,000 unpaid carers, and in particular those living in Edinburgh and Midlothian. It starts a week of virtual support for carers, with VOCAL (Voice of Carers Across Lothian) providing an exciting events programme ranging from afternoon teas to employer support.
Unpaid carers are recognised as essential key workers by Scottish Government and local authorities but many face an uncertain future as Scotland emerges from lockdown. National Carers Week’s aim is #MakingCaringVisible and shines a spotlight on the increased reliance and pressure on unpaid carers now and in the aftermath of the coronavirus.
At the same time, challenges of invisibility remain – social isolation, economic deprivation and continuing a lockdown that for many has lasted years, not months. Unpaid carers face the same challenges as many care and NHS workers but from behind closed doors with far less recognition. Edinburgh’s 64,000+ carers are supporting some of the most vulnerable, ‘shielded’ groups in society and since services have reduced following the coronavirus outbreak, 74% have picked up more caring responsibilities. Last month, Carers UK reported 53% are close to burn out.
Local carer Ruth Hendery has a son with autism and learning disabilities and elderly parents, and says:
‘The hardest thing about this lockdown for me is not being able to see and touch my loved ones. My son can’t understand. I’ve never been so long apart from him. My Mum keeps asking “what’s going on?” My Dad finds it so cold in the garden. I have no answers and I don’t know when I can give them a hug and reassure them it’s all going to be OK.’
VOCAL’s CEO Sebastian Fischer says:
‘In the last few months unpaid carers have faced unprecedented upheaval and uncertainty whilst continuing to be the backbone of our health and social care services. We welcome the measures taken by Scottish Government and local authorities to ensure carers are treated as equal partners in care – with priority access to testing and PPE, carer ID letters and additional Carers Allowance payments. But the biggest challenges lie ahead. Going forward it is vital that this recognition of carers as equal partners is sustained and translated into action.’
VOCAL works with over 10,000 unpaid carers across Edinburgh and Midlothian, and during the coronavirus has been in regular telephone and video contact with over 200 carers a week. Many carers are looking for reassurance, emotional support and counselling as well as advice on managing complex care packages, loss of income or accessing PPE to provide personal care. VOCAL has a programme of online support and learning events dealing with many of these concerns, visit carerstraining.co.uk.
· VOCAL (Voice of Carers Across Lothian) – vocal.org.uk
· Isla Ratcliff – islaratcliff.com and YouTube
· Carers UK’s – Caring behind closed doors: Forgotten Families in the Coronavirus Outbreak
· Contact – Rosie McLoughlin on 0131 622 6666 or firstname.lastname@example.org