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National Carers Week: raising awareness of hidden carers is more important than ever

Inspiring Scotland supports East Ayrshire Carers Centre (EACC) to work with young people with a caring role at home. This guest blog is from EACC Co-Chief Executive Officer Fiona Robson.

It’s National Carers Week, and the theme this year is to “Make Carers Visible”. The irony of our current situation is not lost on us – but it is perhaps more important now than ever before to raise as much awareness as possible about hidden carers and helping people self-identify so that they can be supported.

It’s going to be a very different Carers Week for us all this year. As we can’t see our lovely carers face to face, we are currently preparing care and fun packages for our young carers and packages for our adult carers to enjoy during Carers Week.

We know from our wellbeing calls every week that unpaid carers are generally feeling more isolated and are feeling the financial strain of lockdown. They are worried about the mental health of the people they care for and are struggling with their own mental health too.

Where some carers had been fairly positive and sure about what has expected of them in the fight against the pandemic, some are confused about what they can and can’t do with regards to matters such as leaving the house.

Young Carers are missing their peers and, in many cases, have taken on lots of extra responsibilities, especially for younger siblings. Lots of them are terrified that the person they care for will catch coronavirus and die. They are missing their school friends too, and of course are missing attending young carers groups.

Fiona with EACC Young Carers Natasha and Isla, pictured on a pre-lockdown trip to Edinburgh.

Our employability service is having to adapt as a lot of the young people we support have been furloughed or just let go, and where they had meaningful volunteer opportunities and work experience placements, they have now lost this too. We are concentrating on keeping them motivated and positive and have purchased online training and to help them increase their skills.

We are busier than we have ever been – making hundreds of phone calls every week to carers and offering information, support, and advice. We are completing benefit forms and helping with housing, blue badge applications, fuel poverty, and accessing external funds for carers and their families.

We are completing wellbeing phone calls and offering emotional as well as practical support. We are signposting to various community groups for vulnerable and shielding people, directing those carers who are able to support their own shopping and deliveries rather than rely on community groups they may not need.

The most challenging part of all this is helping people understand that they are ‘unpaid carers’. They just get on and do it, but it means they don’t always seek support or understand what their legal entitlements are. By making hidden carers more visible, we can help them live a life alongside their caring role. That’s why it’s massively important that we continue to raise awareness through initiatives such as National Carers Week, even if things are very different for all of us this year.

EACC provide holistic, personalised support that ensures that a young person can manage their caring role whilst fulfilling their potential. Young Carers do not have the freedom that most young people take for granted and their education and future opportunities can be affected. The social enterprise activity provides supported employment opportunities and the highly skilled staff are a consistent source of support to young people as they navigate their future and earn their own income. Support is long term, intensive and holistic based on the individual circumstances of each young carer.

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