Gareth Howells is a former young carer and CEO of Carers Trust, the leading charity supporting hundreds of thousands of unpaid carers across the UK. In this blog, Gareth explains how isolation and loneliness is affecting millions of unpaid carers, and how DCMS funding is helping Carers Trust tackle this issue that so many unpaid carers face on a daily basis.
It may seem strange to be talking about loneliness at this time of year. After all, for most of us Christmas is a time for celebrating friendship and families.
But for many of the millions of unpaid carers across the UK, Christmas – just like any other time of year – will be a lonely time, spent far away from wider family and friends.
That’s because unpaid carers are having to spend more and more time at home with a loved one, providing round-the-clock care for a relative with a long-term illness, disability or poor mental health. In a recent Carers Trust survey, we found that, even before the pandemic, two thirds of unpaid carers were having to spend 50 hours or more per week on their caring role.
Coronavirus has made it even harder for unpaid carers to get any sort of break from their caring role, they also haven’t been able to catch up with friends during the easing of lockdown restrictions. We found that, for one in six unpaid carers, the amount of extra time they were caring every week because of the pandemic was over forty hours.
The impact this is having on unpaid carers cannot be overstated. Many tell us they are at breaking point – exhausted by the hours spent caring and weighed down under the financial pressure of having to give up work, or drastically reduce their working hours so their loved one can get the care they need.
So this is why we are delighted to be working with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on its #LetsTalkLoneliness campaign. DCMS funding means Carers Trust has been able to provide over £430,000 worth of funding so far, to partners to deliver meaningful activities that are making a real difference for isolated and exhausted carers.
With funding from @DCMS the @CarersTrust’s local services are delivering programmes of activities to help carers feel less isolated and more connected with their communities #LetsTalkLoneliness this winterhttps://t.co/mQnHQ2N8O8
— DCMS (@DCMS) December 15, 2020
Whether it’s online dancing classes, virtual quizzes, creative writing courses or wellbeing activity boxes delivered to a carer’s doorstep, DCMS funding is helping us create more time for carers to talk to other carers, have some time for themselves and bring some much needed fun and companionship into their lives. It may not sound much, but unpaid carers continually tell us just how important it is for them to not feel alone, and understand that other people are going through similar things, and want to help.
6,000 carers supported so far
So how many carers have we helped so far thanks to DCMS funding? Well, when we started the project, our goal was to have supported 2,100 unpaid carers by the end of December. With our partners, we’ve actually supported over 6,000 carers so far.
However, before we get too carried away with the impact we have had, we need to remember that the effects of Covid-19 will be with us long after vaccinations have been rolled out. And the fact that we have supported three times the number of carers originally intended through this DCMS funding only serves to underline just how widespread the need is for ongoing support to tackle loneliness and isolation among Britain’s unpaid carers.
That’s why Carers Trust will continue to work with partners across government, business and the voluntary sector to make sure unpaid carers get the support they deserve and need.
💙 Sue’s Story
Lockdown saw Sue return to caring for her two grown up children who both have Downs Syndrome.
— DCMS (@DCMS) December 15, 2020