This week is Carers Week in the UK and we as a charity want to support the campaign to help make caring visible.
Every family that relies on our services has one or more members of the family who have unpaid caring roles. In doing research for this blog, I was shocked to learn that there are around 6.5 million carers in the UK – that’s 1 in 8 adults who are carers.
According to CarersUK, every day another 6,000 people take on caring responsibilities and they estimate that a staggering 13.6 million people have had caring roles through the pandemic.
Around 5 million people in the UK are juggling caring responsibilities with work – that’s 1 in 7 of the workforce. Carers save the economy £132 billion per year, an average of £19,336 per carer, yet Carers Allowance (the main carer’s benefit) is £67.25 for a minimum of 35 hours, the lowest benefit of its kind.
Caring comes from the heart, but without any support it can be exhausting. And if carers are exhausted, they are more susceptible to ill health themselves. The knock-on effect is costly if someone who is cared for has to be looked after in the care system when a family carer is unwell. It makes sense to look after our carers on so many different levels.
What is Carers Week?
Carers Week is an annual campaign designed to raise awareness of caring. It highlights the challenges unpaid carers face and recognises the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK. The campaign also helps people who don’t think of themselves as having caring responsibilities to identify as carers and access much-needed support.
Who is a Carer?
The charity, Carers Week, defines a carer as “someone who provides unpaid care and support to a family member or friend who has a disability, illness, mental health condition, or who needs extra help as they grow older. It isn’t someone who volunteers or is employed to provide support.”
Caring during the pandemic
New research by Carers UK found that unpaid carers saved the UK state £530 million every day of the pandemic. Yet support for many was sorely lacking. During the pandemic many crucial services were reduced or closed altogether (particularly during the lockdowns) and families were largely left to fend for themselves without any help or respite.
Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, warned that during lockdowns unpaid carers have felt completely overlooked and overwhelmed. We certainly got this sense from some of the families we support. Here’s what one of our member’s parents had to say about life in lockdown caring for a child with learning disabilities and complex needs:
“Life wasn’t a walk in the park before lockdown, but with my daughter at school during the day and also able to attend clubs, outings and extra activities with Kangaroos, it was manageable.
“Now I have no breaks at all. I can’t even make myself a cup of tea. My daughter stands anchored to me when I am cooking and asks the same things in her limited language over and over again. I know my mental health is suffering. I feel constantly exhausted and on edge. I feel like we are fighting to survive, but I worry that I’m not doing enough.”
The same picture was painted by many of our members.
Unpaid carers do an amazing job. But they are often forced to fight for services and funding. The Government needs to give back to carers. One of many things we can learn from the pandemic is to recognise the significant contribution carers make to society in their caring roles and how vitally important support services are to them.
The importance of Kangaroos
We were devastated when the pandemic hit and we had to close our face-to-face clubs and activities. We know just how important our services are to our members and families. Our members enjoy clubs and activities in a safe space, while families get much-needed respite and time to do the everyday tasks that are difficult to do whilst caring for their young person with learning disabilities.
Back in March 2020 we quickly regrouped and launched an online activity programme (it was such a big hit, we are still offering this service, albeit at a reduced level).
Throughout the pandemic we thought of ways to keep our members connected and offered a range of support to our young people, parents and carers, through regular check-in calls, pre-booked online entertainment, Zoom yoga sessions, an extensive selection of online creative activities, Zoom family picnics, and more. We also regularly posted cards and activity packs to our members. And we offered some face-to-face outdoor meet-ups between lockdowns in small groups as allowed.
We regularly asked for feedback on our programme to make sure we were having an impact. When asked if Kangaroos has helped over the last year during the pandemic, one parent said:
“God yes! The zoom stuff has been a complete lifesaver and fantastic!”
Another parent commented during lockdown:
“Kangaroos response to the Covid-19 crisis has been brilliant. Their online programme of activities is our only lifeline at the moment. I can’t thank them enough.”
We know just how tough this past year has been for parents and carers so now we are delighted our clubs and activities are up and running again.
Photographs by Be Me Photography
Carers Week 2021: Kangaroos well-being packs
We recognise the challenges parents and carers face when looking after a young person with learning disabilities, so to coincide with Carers Week, we’ve sent well-being packs out to some of our parents and carers – the packs include candles, herb seeds, bath salts, hand cream, face masks, teas, and chocolates.
We also delivered well-being packs to some of our children and young people – these packs included bath bombs, wellbeing journals, mindfulness colouring books and hot chocolate and in our sensory well-being packs we included ‘That’s not my Kangaroo’ sensory story, sensory scarves, textured and light up ball, balloons, bubbles and some fidget toys.
We celebrate the dedication of all our families. The positivity and strength they have shown to us during the pandemic is truly inspiring.
Please share your caring stories to make caring visible.
If you’d like to know more about our clubs and activities or would like to help with some fundraising, please get in touch.