IT IS estimated there are 63,000 unpaid carers in Worcestershire - many caring for more than 50 hours a week for friends or relatives with a serious illness, disability or addiction.

The figure rockets to 6.5 million for the whole of the UK and it is believed they provide care to the value of £119 billion each year – greater than the annual NHS budget.

During this year’s national Carers Week, which runs until Sunday June 12, three county carer charities have joined forces to raise awareness about the work done by these carers, help identify them and direct them to available support in their communities.

Representatives from Worcestershire Association of Carers (WAC), Worcestershire Young Carers (WYC) and Worcestershire Parent Carers Community (WPCC) will be holding information sessions, staging drop-in opportunities and fundraising during the week.

Carole Cumino, the chief executive officer for WAC, and her deputy Jim Smith will even be criss-crossing the county in a camper van – with support from M Pinches & Sons (Transport) – in a bid to find hard to reach carer communities.

Vicky Parker, spokesperson for the joint campaign said: “I am really excited about this year’s campaign as it is the first time all three charities have come together to raise awareness for Carers Week.

“We will be targeting ‘hidden’ carers – those who do not identify themselves as carers, but are quietly going about their care role without accessing any support.

“Also, many people assume carers are adults looking after the elderly – this is not always the case and we want to highlight that unpaid carers can include children, young people and parents.”

The week of events will include information sessions at:

  • Upton Surgery Thursday June 9 from 10am to 4pm
  • The Hive, Worcester, on Thursday June 9 from 3pm to 5pm
  • Information and bucket collection Sainsbury’s, Kidderminster, on Thursday June 9 from 10am to 3pm
  • Carer drop-in and information stand at Tesco in Warndon, Worcester, on Thursday June9 from 10am to 2pm
  • Information stand at Malvern Hospital on Friday June 10 from 9am to 5pm
  • Information stand at Kidderminster Hospital on Friday June 10  from 10am to 3pm
  • Information stand at County Hall, Worcester, Friday June 10 from 12noon to 2pm
  • Carer drop-in and information stand at Alvechurch Library on Friday June 10 from 10am to 12noon
  • 55+ event at Kidderminster Town Hallon Saturday June 11
  • Age Uk Herefordshire and Worcestershire Active Age Festival at the University of Worcestershire Riverside Centreon Saturday June 11 from 10am to 3pm
  • Bucket collection at Sainsbury’s St John’s on Sunday June 12 from 10am to 3pm

Worcestershire Association of Carers provides information, advice and support for the unpaid adult carers in Worcestershire.

It will soon deliver carer services under the new look Worcestershire Integrated Carers Hub being launching on July 1, which is supported by Worcestershire County Council and the three county clinical commissioning groups.

Mary Slater’s story

One of the carers it has helped is Mary Slater from Worcester was a carer to her mother some years ago and now cares for her husband.

She said: “My mother became ill with a number of progressive and complex health conditions. It comes as a shock but you think you’ll manage with a few small adjustments to your own life.

“However, it’s when that dependency dramatically increases and things progress to a point where you are neglecting your own health, becoming increasingly tired and worn down, perhaps getting low in mood and have no time for yourself that stress can rise to dangerous levels.

“I think it was then I realised I was actually a carer and I could no longer cope without help. My GP suggested seeking help and agreeing a package of care for my mother via social services, which I did.

“Although this was helpful in terms of her safety while I was at work, it brought new emotions such as guilt at not being there to look after her myself during the day, not trusting anyone else to look after her in the way I did and grief that her health was worsening and I might lose her.

“I discovered subsequently the tremendous support available through Worcestershire Association of Carers. I feel so supported by them now I am on my second caring role for my husband. It is wonderful being able to pick up the telephone and talk to someone if I need advice or support.”

Worcestershire Young Carers aims to support to young carers across the county who provide regular and ongoing care and emotional support to a family member due to their physical or learning disability, mental health issues, long-term illness, drug or alcohol dependency or other forms of addiction.

These young people can become vulnerable and it can affect their mental health, well-being, education, aspirations and ability to build relationships as well as other aspects of their life.

WYC currently provides support to 280 young carers aged from seven to 25 years across Worcestershire through one to one individual support and mentoring; monthly youth clubs; activities and trips away; respite breaks; signposting and onward referring to other organisations; advice and guidance; a youth forum enabling young carers to have a voice and influence decisions that will affect them as young carers; and help with education, training and employment issues.

Hannah Rogers’ Story

Hannah Rogers is a young carer aged 17 from Evesham who has been caring for her mum, with multiple health issues, for the past three years.

She didn’t even realise she was in a caring role and it was only when her mum did some research on the internet for general help and support, that they found WYC.

Her mum contacted the team and Hannah completed a self-referral. Following an assessment visit, Hannah was offered a service with the project.

“Before I joined young carers I didn’t know how to socialise, was scared to leave the house and to leave mum by herself.

“Worcestershire Young Carers has helped me to make new friends, gave me the opportunity to socialise and built up my confidence. It also provides me with a much needed break away from my caring role. It has made a big difference to my life”.

Worcestershire Parent and Carers’ Community supports children with disabilities/additional needs and their families.

It provides family-based short breaks and activity days, ensuring that families who have a child with additional needs are able to enjoy quality time together within their community. The children - regardless of their ability or disability - get the opportunity to enjoy their childhood.

It also provides a network of support to parent carers including training and workshops which helps them manage the difficulties and challenges associated with raising a child with additional needs.

Hazel Hyman, of Worcester, tells her story

“As a parent I didn’t consider myself to be a carer to my child until an advisor pointed out that, as I had to do much more than the average parent because of my child’s diagnosis, I am a carer.

“Despite having worked almost 20 years at a professional level, with a good salary, I have been unable to work for over 10 years, because of my child’s condition.

“This has had a significant effect on our lifestyle and standard of living.  I know, however, that I am in the best position to understand my child and, fortunately, I have the ability to battle to get the services required.

“In the early days after our child's diagnosis, it was a great relief to us to find out about the WPCC and their get-togethers and activities.

“It started with just an hour or so at a soft-play venue, but it was great to have that time to meet with other parents coping with similar issues to ours and to meet with other children with differing disabilities.

“We went on to attend days out organised by WPCC for families. It's fantastic to be able to experience that sort of thing with people in the same boat as you.”

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