Since lockdown in March, we’ve all had to get used to not doing the things we are used to doing, and for the vast majority of us, it has been really tough as we miss the company of parents, grandchildren, school friends or colleagues.
But for one group of people, loneliness and isolation has been a way of life for a lot longer than just the last six months. They are Britain’s unpaid carers – people who care unpaid for a family member because of a long-term illness or disability, poor mental health or substance addiction. Many of them have had to give up work and a career so they can provide the care their relative needs.
It’s hard to maintain friendships, or even to just catch up with your wider family when you need to be at home to make sure that your loved one gets the attention they need.
So, while coronavirus has put a strain on all of us, can you imagine how hard it has been for unpaid carers? It has made what was already a difficult situation for them far, far worse.
There’s the worry about catching the virus and passing it to the person they care for, the worry about care workers coming into their home, the worry about going shopping and bringing the virus back with them, the worry about going to work, with little or no support.
This, of course, makes it virtually impossible for many unpaid carers to leave home at all, placing them at even greater risk of loneliness.
Given the impact the pandemic has had on carers and the local services delivering support to them, we now need to get more support to our Network Partners so they can continue to meet the increased need to support unpaid carers. That support includes offering respite breaks, access to peer support groups, financial advice and emotional support.
Carer support services
So Carers Trust is delighted to have received a grant of £500,000 from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). The money is being directed to 36 of our carer support services engaged in delivering vital services to unpaid carers. The DCMS funding will be used specifically to help these local services continue to run essential group activities for those carers most at risk of loneliness, helping them make new friends through expanded online and telephone services while it remains unsafe to meet in person.
We have already reached 1,425 carers thanks to the DCMS funding. But there is much more still to be done. We aim to use the money to support 2,100 unpaid carers most at risk of isolation and loneliness, helping get them better connected with their communities so they can continue to provide the care that’s so essential to their loved ones.
Our mission to support unpaid carers does not stop here. We will continue to fight to ensure unpaid carers get the support that matters to them.
In their own words…
Raymond cares for his wife who has a condition called Progressive Supranuclear Palsy (PSP). Raymond spends much of his time at home as he can only leave his wife for two hours at a time. Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Raymond and his wife had four or five social activities to go to each month including a PSP social group, a quiz, and a meet up at the local hospice. Since lockdown all these opportunities have gone.
Using funding from the Loneliness Fund, Carers in Bedfordshire have set up a socially distanced walking group which Raymond joined for a walk around Bedford Park and a coffee. Raymond said that the walking group has given him a much-needed social opportunity and he is hoping to attend future sessions which will give him the opportunity to meet more carers in a similar situation to his own.
Sarah cares for her mother who has dementia, along with other health issues. They went into lockdown together at the beginning of the pandemic, which has taken its toll on Sarah. Through a Carers group organised by Crossroads Care North West, Sarah has taken part in several activities funded by the Loneliness Fund including craft sessions, bingo, quizzes and mindfulness.
“I have thoroughly enjoyed the activity sessions each week and because I am currently going through an anxious time with my caring commitments it has been a godsend. It is so lovely to be able to connect with other carers outside my family circle, to have a chat and to take part in the activities together”.