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Fiona Collie reflects on Carers Week and stresses that change needs to be ongoing

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15th June 2018 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

Every year, with partners, we organise Carers Week. It’s an annual campaign to awareness of caring, highlight the challenges carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK.  

This year, we launched research that showed the toll that caring is taking on carers’ health and wellbeing.  Three quarters (75%) of carers in Scotland said they had suffered mental ill health and nearly two thirds (63%) said their physical health had worsened. This must change!

We took these stark messages to politicians at both parliaments, talking to politicians about what needs to change and asking them to pledge what they will do to make change happen. 

This included an event for MPs in London where politicians from all parties were invited to meet carers, listen to their experiences and commit to action. At the well-attended event, a number of MPs from Scotland came along and more than 60 MPs and MSPs also signed our pledge wall, including the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and most of her Cabinet and Ministers. We also presented Carer Positive Awards to nine employers including three MSPs and our first MP – Marion Fellows.

Fiona Collie

Fiona Collie

Throughout the week, groups have been holding Healthy and Connected events for carers. There are too many to mention individually but activities for carers have included: a  trip 'Doon the Water'; walking in Strathclyde Country Park and dancing in North Lanarkshire; lots of afternoons teas; crafting sessions in Dumfries; individual health checks in Falkirk; displays for patients at medical centres; pamper and information days for carers; and mindfulness, bingo, tai chi, massage, reflexology, therapets and visit to spas. 

Two events really caught my eye, the first, the Freedom Project, is an exhibition of writing and photographs by carers from North Argyll Carers Centre created while on a respite break on the Isle of Tiree. And the second - one that sounds like lots of fun – was Laughter Yoga organised in South Lanarkshire.

So it’s been a busy and engaging Carers Week and we extend our thanks to everyone who has taken part. But the messages of what needs to change are not just for a single week. To build communities that better support carers of all ages, action is needed all year round.

Some actions may take longer as we continue to press government to ensure that carers are at the heart of any future decisions on the funding of our health and social care system. But others can be taken forward, right here, and right now. 

Health and social care must ensure that there is greater consistency in making carers aware of support available to look after their own health and wellbeing including access to health checks, flu jabs, flexible appointment times and regular breaks from caring. Employers can put in place employment policies to support carers, such as care leave or flexible working. Schools and colleges can introduce policies and programmes that support young carers and young adult carers to improve the wellbeing of students and consider the impact of caring and flexibility needed. And high street services like pharmacies and supermarkets can help too, raising awareness and signposting to carers to support.

So the message from this year’s Carers Week is change is needed but everyone has a part to play in building healthy and connected communities for carers.

Fiona Collie is policy and public affairs manager for Carers Scotland