Thursday, September 01, 2005

Carers - an invisible army

Throughout my career as a manager in healthcare I had a passionate interest in finding ways that we could support carers. I spent many hours listening to the stories of carers. I learned much more from listening to carers then I ever did reading and studying.

I was fortunate to work with and for some forward thinking managers and leaders who shared my view and as a result we did some interesting things to help carers.

Carers are those people providing unpaid care for loved ones who are family members or friends. In America I believe they are called ‘care givers.’

Here are some interesting facts about carers in the UK

1. One in eight adults are carers... around six million people
2. Carers save the economy £57 billion per year, an average of £10,000 per carer
3. Over 3 million people juggle care with work
4. The main carer's benefit is £45 for a minimum of 35 hours, equivalent to £1.26 per hour
5. 1.25 million people provide over 50 hours of care per week
6. People providing high levels of care are twice as likely to be permanently sick or disabled
7. Over 1 million people care for more than one person
8. 58% of carers are women and 42% are men
9. By 2037 the number of carers could have increased to 9 million
10. Every year over 2 million people become carers

I do not believe carers are properly valued by government.

It is true that things have improved dramatically in recognition of carers. This has slowly happened over the last 20 years or so. But there is still a huge gap in what is promised and what is delivered.

I have decided to do some voluntary work in support of Carers UK – a campaigning organisation whose job is to raise the profile of carers and the role they play in keeping this country financially solvent – that is not an exaggeration.

The truth is that if carers withdrew their labour today – the country would be bankrupt tomorrow. It is as simple as that.

Carers provide the care for a variety of reasons – love/ duty/obligation among them.

Carers rarely ask for help – they are usually too busy simply looking after the person they care for.

The rest of us have a duty to support them and raise the profile of their good work. I hope you will visit the web site of Carers UK to see some of the work carers do.

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