This post was first published by The Croydon Citizen on 29/11/2017.
Why Carers’ Rights Day is so important to Croydon
Friday 24th November 2017 may be just another day in the calendar for many people. For many others it marks Carers’ Rights Day. This annual event is held in order to bring carers together to ensure that they are aware of their rights and – importantly – know where to find the help and support that they need. This is an issue that always needs to be highlighted.
What I find most noticeable from when I first started caring is the increase is that support and help for carers has become more accessible, with more organisations available in Croydon, such as the Carers’ Support Service on George Street.
What makes Carers’ Rights Day different from Carers’ Week is that it focuses solely on ensuring that carers are aware of what they are entitled to, as well as highlighting the availability of practical help and information on where to go for issues that are financial or health-related, or to do with the family, work or community or social activities.
The impact of changes needs to be addressed
However, something that needs to be addressed is the impact of changes, positive or negative, and whether they are financial or legislative, on carers.
Constant changes in benefits and their assessments may be a contributing factor in whether carers fail to claim monies owed to them. The introduction of what became known as the bedroom tax proved unpopular and disconcerting. A benefit that is going through some changes now is the Disability Living Allowance (DLA), which helps adults with long-term disabilities or health conditions. This will be replaced by the Personal Independence Payment. Some carers are currently undergoing a new assessment this year as part of these changes to the benefit system. Benefits can be a minefield at the best of times – especially in the early stages of caring – so it is worth having someone who is well-informed advising you.
Identifying yourself as a carer is the most important step, as well as getting a carers’ assessment. It only recently came to my knowledge that Help For Carers Croydon (formerly Crossroads Care) has been commissioned by Croydon Council to look after carers’ assessments. I really hope that it has the extra manpower to implement this, with 33,683 carers to assess, who make up 10% of the total population of Croydon (according to the Croydon Carer Engagement Report 2017).
Charities cannot rely on councils to subsidise costs
If a carer does have their assessment and is eligible for a personal budget for the person whom they care for, this is at the discretion of the council funding department. A recent visit to a charity’s AGM meeting highlighted this, in that it had to increase the cost of its services as it cannot rely on its council to subsidise costs. The impact of this on carers is that services are restricted. Charities and groups have to weigh up what services they can and cannot afford.
It still surprises me that there are many organisations with varying numbers of employees with little knowledge about carers, or awareness of carers who are in their employ. This can be a delicate matter as it is the choice of the carer to disclose their caring role. It also depends on the relationship with the employer and colleagues. Would it be easy to discuss such matters with a line manager? Would colleagues be sympathetic?
As we know, many people may spend as much time in their workplace as at their home. The culture in the workplace should be one of respect and trust. For those who suddenly find themselves carers after working full or part time for a number of years, having something in place for carers such as recommendations, a handbook, or leaflets and pamphlets, would be invaluable and a great place to start researching rights and benefits. The Working Carers Evening Group holds an evening on the second Tuesday of the month, at which working carers can meet not only to have some ‘me’ time, but also to find out about benefits and rights available to them.
Most carers have little confidence in the continuation of the support that they receive
Based on the State Of Caring 2017 report (Carers UK), most carers have little confidence in the continuation of support that they receive and many find that their health has deteriorated as a result of caring. Only 8% of carers said that they were confident that the support that they received will continue, and 70% find it difficult to get a good night’s sleep because of anxiety over their caring. However, carers in Croydon save the local economy an estimated £654 million per year, as Bucker & Yeandle found in 2015. And the Croydon Carer Engagement Report 2017 discovered that in Croydon, signposting for carers is done well, as is training, the provision of support activities such as coffee mornings, and counselling.
We still have some way to go. Identifying yourself as a carer is key. Being aware of your rights and knowing what to do with that knowledge and how it can be implemented in a practical way that suits your needs is also important. Every carer will have particular needs, as will the person they care for. In a time of austerity and cuts, the challenge is usually at what price the support that you need comes.
How much does it cost to keep good employees and have a more carer-friendly environment in the workplace? How much does it cost to ensure that a carer is healthy so that they don’t become an NHS statistic? How much does it cost to have respite care? How much does it cost to see friends and relatives more? There can be no doubt – a carer’s right is a universal right.