When a person is looking after someone else with health issues or disabilities but don’t see themselves as a carer, they can miss out on all kinds of help that can support them in their caring role. Even the word ‘carer’ can be difficult – many people now associate this with paid care workers rather than unpaid family carers. Most of our staff will have heard the words ‘I’ve never thought of myself as a carer, I’m his/her mum/dad; partner; daughter or son; friend or neighbour’. Because it is so important to carers to understand that there is help out there for them, we see promoting the importance of identifying carers as an essential part of the Carers Leeds role. Identifying carers in healthcare settings can be one of the most effective ways of doing this. Some recent figures published about health services show that 70% of carers have contact with health services, but only 1 in 10 of these are likely to get any support. So lots of people who are caring are missing out. This is where our Yellow Card Scheme, which recently won Leeds a national award from the Health Service Journal, is so important. It encourages the identification of carers in GP practices.
In November, Carers UK published a report called ‘Missing Out: The Idenification Challenge’. This report states that over half the carers they surveyed for the report said they missed out on support because they had not identified as a carer, and this had impacted on their finances and their physical health. The report also stated that more than half the carers in the survey took over a year to recognise their caring role, one in four took over five years to identify as a career and nearly one in ten took over ten years. 40% of carers said that missing out on support caused them to give up work.
So the message to everyone in health and social care services: we need to encourage carers to identify as a carer and access the information, advice and support available to help them in their caring role.