Published by Alison Cram

Categorised in Good To Know

Estimates for the current number of carers in the UK range from 6.5 million to 8 million. That’s a lot of people. 

Not that you’d know it. Despite the numbers, and despite carers cropping up in every community and across all age groups, we don’t figure highly in the political, economic or cultural conversations of the day.  In our fast-paced world, being an unpaid carer isn’t seen as sexy, trendy or exciting enough to grab attention for very long. 

It doesn’t help that most carers I know spend much of their time and energy simply keeping the whole show on the road – washing, dressing, feeding, cooking, shopping, cleaning, fetching, carrying….  Too busy with the day job to be canvassing politicians, firing off emails to the papers or promoting their YouTube videos. 

During the pandemic lockdown there was (eventually) an outcry over the way the residential care sector appeared to come a poor second to the resources and profile given to NHS hospitals. Rightly so. But lockdown was hard on many unpaid carers too and I don’t recall much fuss about that (perhaps I blinked and missed it). 

Yes, I know we had the Clap for Carers and it made everyone feel warm and fuzzy for a few minutes. It was no doubt well intentioned – but you know what they say about the road to hell. 

I’m being Mrs Grumpy partly because we’ve been here before. This week is Carers’ Week and it’s easy to get cynical, or perhaps just sceptical, about how much difference such a campaign really makes. We’ve had Carers’ Week for many years and we get lots of plaudits and pats on the head and told how marvellous we are – until the following week when normal service is resumed.

Personally, I’m worried that the same will happen again this year – that once the Government’s emphasis switches from health crisis to economic recovery, social care will once again slip down the agenda. There are already indications from the Government in Westminster that the pandemic could delay promised reform in social care in England and Wales. In Scotland the Government has announced that it will set up a review to look into what happened in social care during lockdown, but no timescale has been given. 

But perhaps I am being too pessimistic. Perhaps coronavirus really can lead to something different this time. Lockdown has certainly emphasised the importance of community and raised fundamental questions about how we care for each other. Perhaps this is the time for unpaid carers to step out of the shadows and really make our voices heard. Which makes that Carer’s Week 2020 theme of ‘Make Caring Visible’ more important and relevant than ever.

For more information about Carers’ Week you can visit https://www.carersweek.org.

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