Carers’ Centre volunteer Gill Pitman with Telephone Support Co-ordinator Ian Dagger and volunteer Christine Sanders
Each year, throughout the UK, Carers Rights Day celebrates people who give up their time, freedom and often their future prospects to look after a loved one who is frail, ill or disabled. On November 29th across Bath and North East Somerset, the Carers’ Centre will be hosting events and activities to bring the role of carers into the spotlight.
“The theme for this year is “rights, advice, support,” said Chief Executive, Sonia Hutchison. “We have arranged for carers to speak out on local radio about how to access the right help and support if you are caring for another. Carers often do not know their rights and millions of carers’ benefits aren’t claimed. 2.3 million people in the UK become carers each year but miss out on vital practical support such as replacement care to give them time out to look after themselves or equipment to help with lifting and bathing or make their home safer. Carers give so much to society yet, as a consequence of caring, they often experience ill-health, poverty and discrimination.”
The Carers’ Centre provides free services and support to thousands of carers across the area and regularly signposts those who have missed out on benefits to ensure they receive the financial support they are entitled to. Operating from premises in Bath and Radstock, Lydia Clark leads the experienced team providing one-to-one advice to carers.
“I met a carer recently who had been forced to quit university to help look after his disabled mother. He struggled for years providing 24/7 care alongside his father, who worked long shifts day and night to provide for his family.
They did not know they were entitled to financial help, and by the time I met them, had debts of over £50,000. Thankfully, they are now receiving Disability Living Allowance, Carers’ Allowance and Income Support which, had they known about them, could have saved them from years of worrying money problems. This kind of story is all too common – but Carers Rights Day can help people realise they are carers and reach out for support.”
As the parent of a teenager with autism, Surrinder Sandham-Bains was finding it difficult to manage when her daughter, Nina, began a course at Bath College. “I contacted my social worker to ask for help,” explained Surrinder. “I was due to return to work after a sabbatical and was worried I may be forced to give up my job. I found I could receive a discretionary Personal Budget of £500 to help me take a much-needed break. I was pleased to be able to get some extra help, but wish I had known about it before.” Surrinder has now returned to work, but as Nina cannot be left alone her father, Ian, has to juggle his job to remain with her each day until she is taken into college – so the family is still under the strain of caring and working.
As well as carers speaking out on radio about support and rights, the Centre is providing extra help to carers on its Freephone advice line. The Radstock-based Telephone Support Team is made up entirely of volunteers, many of whom are themselves carers. Led by Telephone Support Co-ordinator Ian Dagger, each volunteer undergoes careful training to prepare them for this important role. “We will be on standby on Carers Rights Day to take calls from carers who need advice and information and to book them in for one-to-one support from the Centre’s team of experts,” said Ian. Free information and advice is available to carers across Bath and North East Somerset by telephoning 0800 0388 885.
For younger carers, two exciting Website Workshops are being held on Carers Rights Day at the Bath Carers’ Centre on Lower Bristol Road. Bringing together carers aged from 5 to 18, the workshops will focus on the development of a new online gateway to support and the creation of a community where local children who care for a member of their family can feel less isolated. “The Centre’s existing website offers a fantastic window into our services and is accessed by thousands of adult carers every month,” said David Trumper, Deputy Chief Executive. “The young carers’ website will offer the same but with a focus on social media for the over-13s and include film, photos and art produced by young carers of all ages. The workshop on Carers Rights Day will make sure these carers are listened to about what they really want from their site. With their input we will develop a valuable resource that’s exactly right for them – ready for launch early next year.”
Thanks to new funding from Bath and North East Somerset Council, the Carers’ Centre will soon be able to provide a limited number of one-off Carers’ Grants to eligible carers. If you care for an adult aged over 18, please contact the Centre for more information.
If you are a young or adult carer and would like to access support and information please contact the Carers’ Centre Freephone: 0800 0388 885 or visit www.banescarerscentre.org.uk