Carers Week 2021: Visible and Valued

Today’s guest blog, in recognition of Carers Week, comes from Councillor Helen Holland, Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care and Labour Councillor for Hartcliffe and Withywood.

Last year, with applause and cheers (and on some streets even fireworks!) on Thursday evenings, Bristol celebrated the value of care like never before. And yet within that crucial national recognition of the importance of care, thousands of people who carry out invaluable care work were perhaps still too hidden from our collective view. Specifically, those who look after family members or friends – unpaid – every day in our city.

The theme of this year’s Carers Week is “Make Caring Visible and Valued” – a challenge to us all to acknowledge and support the contribution unpaid carers make not only to their families, but to the whole of Bristol.

Few people will be aware of the sheer scale of carers’ contribution. The census in 2011 revealed that there are at least 40,138 unpaid carers in Bristol – and it is likely that this year’s census will show that this number has grown.

We know that Covid has had a significant impact both on the numbers of people who undertake caring responsibilities and in the amount of care they have provided for their loved ones and neighbours. The country has been heavily reliant on carers’ efforts: Carers UK estimate that unpaid carers’ work has saved the country over £135 billion during the pandemic.

This effort has, for too many, come at significant personal time and cost. Carers across the UK now provide a staggering 65 hours per week of care, and 64% have said their mental health has worsened during the pandemic. 58% have seen an impact too on their physical health.

We know, therefore, that clapping for our carers is not enough. We need to make sure Bristol’s unpaid carers are visible and valued for everything that they do.

In our One City Plan, we have the goal of identifying, assessing, supporting and valuing all unpaid carers in Bristol by 2022, and recognising and respecting them as expert partners in care who contribute their skills, experience and dedication to our city’s care sector. We know many people who undertake care for relatives want to have the opportunity to use those skills by becoming professional care workers. Our Proud to Care website has advice and local job opportunities for anyone wanting to develop a career in care in Bristol. You can also read stories from people like Lindsey, who works as a Support Outreach Worker for Headway Bristol, having cared for her own partner who has a brain injury.

We also want to continue to offer a diverse network of support services for carers that reaches people in all communities. This includes working with organisations such as Bristol Young Carers, Bristol Black Carers, Bristol and Avon Chinese Women’s Group and the Dhek Bhal support group for carers of South Asian Elders to support those undertaking care responsibilities who may face particular barriers in having their status as carers recognised and supported.

Independent and trusted advice is also crucial in order that those in need of care and their families can make informed decisions about how their care needs can be best met. In the coming months we will begin the recommissioning process for our advocacy services to make sure that carers have access to the right support at the right time.

I want Bristol to be a city that supports and values everyone who cares for a loved one. If you are currently providing care for a parent, relative or friend, information about the support available to you is available on our website.