Last week was Carers Week and I marked it as your local MP by supporting our excellent city charity Family Voice and by visiting their pop up shop in Bridge Street. Carers Week is something I always try to prioritise in Peterborough as a means of helping to recognise the invaluable work that so many unsung heroes in our area do.
Thousands of people in Peterborough are classed as carers and this high number reflects both the challenges that local people face in terms of illness and disability and the fantastic sense of community and family.
Last year the Government piloted the Care Act onto the statute book, which brought together lots of different parts of adult social care law. The main aspects of the Act came into force on 1st April with local authorities responsible for ensuring the new law is carried out and giving carers the same rights as the person they care for. Carers now know that their needs and wishes should now be respected in their own right.
Throughout Britain, every single day an extra 6,000 people take on caring responsibilities, providing unpaid care by looking after an ill, older or disabled family member or friend. As the country ages, caring will be inevitably be something that will affect most, if not all, people at some point in their lives.
Some people become carers overnight, as a result of some single event: your parent has a stroke or your partner has an accident. In many cases, however, caring responsibilities creep up on families as their parents or grandparents age: it might be increasingly difficult for your mother or father to walk up and down their stairs or take a bath, but it’s likely to happen over time, almost without realising it.
The value of support from carers is estimated at £119 billion a year – that’s more than the country pays for the entire NHS!
Caring can be a draining experience for people especially very young carers who are in full time education and may have siblings to care for too. It doesn’t mean that you don’t love the person – far from it – but the impact of caring on people’s lives can be very challenging and even negative. It is estimated that full-time carers are more than twice as likely to be in poor health than non-carers and about half of all carers are struggling to make end meet, because almost inevitably people have had to give up work to care for their loved one.
We are all touched by the positive work that carers do, because they make our society a bit more compassionate as well as – let’s be honest – saving money for all taxpayers.
Carers bring out the best in Peterborough people and Carers Week is a great opportunity to celebrate that.