Reaching out to hidden carers in the West Midlands

Despite it being Carers’ Week, there are still thousands of people who don’t even realise they are carers. Carers are those of us who look after a relative or friend on a regular basis and who may end up adapting our own lives in order to do so.

Life as a carer is challenging, and the role is often taken on in a crisis. A carer might give up work as a result and be living with the uncertainty of not knowing what the ongoing needs of the person they look after will be in future. Often the role is so intense that the carer does not stop to consider the implications for their own health and well-being.

Couple this with having a lack of spoken English, and low confidence in interacting with agencies or travelling on public transport, and the results can be pretty devastating.

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Bearing these twin challenges in mind, TimeBank designed and set up a programme for Hidden Carers that ran from May till June. The pilot has been providing workshops to carers who have low levels of English and need support to access support and understand their rights.

The Care Act which recently came into force allows carers the same rights to an assessment of need as those they care for. It also gives them rights, under certain criteria, to a carer support plan and personal budget. Passing on this information as well as outlining the variety of support groups and agencies has been part of the task of the project. In addition, carers have been improving their understanding and use of the language they need within the caring role and the terminology associated with it.

The workshops themselves have provided a safe place for carers to share their stories and gain strength and support from each other. In particular, the module on looking at their own needs and options for support has been met with relief and tears as carers realise they are not alone and that there is a system out there designed to help them.

We very much hope to build on the success of this pilot and are now gathering the learning from carers, tutors, and delivery partners so we can reach more hidden carers in future.