It is hard to define this stage of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some people talk of recovery or transition. Some talk about getting ‘back to normal.’ For others, this feels very far away. We are all somewhere on a spectrum, depending on our personal circumstances and our experiences of COVID-19. As the saying goes, we are in the same storm but not in the same boat.
For unpaid carers, trying to navigate the easing of restrictions and what this means for them and the people they care for, can be hugely challenging. As things open up, we know that some of the negative impacts of COVID-19 will continue to leave a legacy. For carers this might be the social isolation and loneliness they have felt this year, coupled with a nervousness about being out and about again. The desperate need for a break, combined with anxiety about leaving the person they care for, for the first time in a while. Carer’s own health and wellbeing may have deteriorated, as well as those they are caring for. Some may have experienced bereavement and are adjusting to life without their caring role.
As I come to the end my first month at Carers Leeds, I have been reflecting on joining an organisation at this time, when it is arguably, never more needed. The information, advice and support we provide has always been invaluable to unpaid carers across the city. The ongoing legacy of COVID-19 has brought new considerations for how we can help make a difference to the lives of carers in Leeds.
Despite the many challenges, we know that unpaid carers are hugely resilient and cope with a range of things that most of us can only imagine. This is also how I feel about Carers Leeds staff and the work we do. Some common themes run through the experiences of unpaid carers and the core aspects of what we do at Carers Leeds:
- Adapting to what is needed – unpaid carers do this as a matter of course and COVID-19 has tested this, particularly where health conditions and levels of support have changed. Carers Leeds mirrors this on behalf of carers. Our role is to adapt and respond to unpaid carers, to be driven by what they need.
- The value of support – we know that many unpaid carers continue to provide care willingly but at times at a personal cost to themselves. The role of support, to empower Carers to make decisions and choices that improve their lives, is vital to enable people to sustain their caring role. I have also witnessed and experienced a huge amount of support at Carers Leeds, between colleagues, between line managers and staff, between our Board and Executive, between our staff and staff from other organisations. This includes the support I have received from everyone as a new CEO.
- Common experience, diversity of experience – these both hold true. When carers come together, they connect through their shared experiences, the things they have in common. We also know that Carers are a diverse group of people and not to make assumptions about what a carer looks like or is like. At Carers Leeds, we provide a universal offer of information, advice and support as well as specialist support targeted at certain carer groups and circumstances.
My first impression of Carers Leeds is of an organisation well equipped to weather the storm and support Carers, whatever boat they find themselves in. I am proud to be leading the organisation through the next phase of its journey, whatever that might bring.
Claire Turner – CEO Carers Leeds