If there was a Carers Flag it would be flying high on top of the Town Hall this week!

My diary is always pretty full…..but this week it’s bursting at the seams….. it has been for a number of weeks and yet I still need to make space, squeeze another meeting in, nip out and give a speech, make sure the Yorkshire Evening Post photographer gets my best side (vain..moi?) …..off to help staff an Info Stand at a local supermarket…. and I love it! Its Carers Week of course and not being busy would mean that something had not gone to plan.

A few years ago I would be phoning, emailing and texting (no tweets back then) asking people in my networks or ‘would be’ networks “What are you doing for Carers Week, Can we have a stall? Could you put up a poster?” Responses, if they came, would often range from the reluctant to the indifferent. It felt like it was up to Carers Leeds and our old friends and colleagues across the city to fly the flag for carers, to be their voice.

This year, as with recent years, the phone calls are incoming, the emails I get boldly have ‘Carers Week’ in the subject box. People are asking what they can do to support carers, what can our organisations do together to support carers, there is no Carers flag of course but if there was I feel it would be on top of the Town Hall, well at least until Sunday.

This year we have 13 companies and organisations involved in our Working Carers Employers Business Forum.   Once upon a time some of these companies would have been names in the phone book, or whatever digital version there is now, today I consider them colleagues, people who know why it is important to support their workforce when they are finding it difficult balancing work with providing care.

I don’t forget about the personal stories of carers, I am a carer myself after all. I know only too well the challenges that come with caring. I love my dad unconditionally….but I know it has come at a price to my mental and physical health. After all it is wasn’t for the unpaid care provided by family and friends the health and social care services would collapse.

Carers Week is about having one week to absolutely blow carer awareness and highlight the importance of supporting carers’ right out the water. That is what we have aimed to do!

And yes…it’s about providing some treats and events to carers. To say we appreciate what you’re doing and we acknowledge how tough it can be. And why not…..I heard a lot this week….a carer who had not been out of her house for months, her duties and her commitment to caring alongside her diminishing confidence had kept her housebound but this week, with the support of others, she was able to come on one of the many social activities we had arranged unfortunately this story is not uncommon but it keeps needing to be told.

I know that giving support to a ‘loved one’ is all year round. I understand that not a lot changes in the lives of 72,000 carers in Leeds just because it’s Carers Week. I get that we have to keep doing more to let people know that we are here and that we can help. But it is Carers Week and each year it gets busier (but a little easier to organise), bit by bit our city’s Commitment to Carers grows and bit by bit we will all have to begin planning, not for one week but all 52.

Val Hewison, Chief Executive