I see the latest report from Carers UK is called Walking the Tightrope (link).  It’s a report that looks specifically at the impact of juggling work and care for people in their 50s. Tick that box. I know…you all think she can’t be a day over 49….but no…well over 50 and certainly walking a tightrope at times.

It is particularly relevant this week as I am delivering some carer awareness sessions at Leeds Beckett Uni to their HR team and over the next couple of weeks to working carers at Leeds Community Healthcare and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) .

Supporting working carers is my ‘baby’. I absolutely believe that if we don’t recognize the importance of supporting carers in the workplace we are heading for problems further down the line. Problems not just about businesses potentially losing well trained and loyal staff and the business sense it makes in retaining those staff, but also about the importance of work to so many carers. For me, work is about who I am. It’s hugely important in structuring my personal identity as well of course as making money and paying the bills.  I have a great passion and commitment to my work (I am incredibly lucky I know…many are not as fortunate as I am) and it’s this passion along with a recognition of my own mental wellbeing and sense of self that  drives me. I will be honest. It’s also sometimes a welcome break (albeit a busman’s holiday at times) from my caring role.

Being able to talk to businesses in the city, to their management, HR Departments as well as to working carers themselves in Leeds is giving me a great opportunity to raise the awareness of an issue that WILL NOT be going away. With 1 in 9 people in any workplace already caring there is no doubt this number will increase as our population as well as our workforce ages.

There can be no argument that caring impacts on our ability to remain in work. Not everyone is surrounded by immediate or extended family that are able to offer help and support to the person or the people we are caring for when needed. It may feel ok to ask a neighbour or a family friend to help out now and again …but for them to be on alert for problems every day is another matter. Many carers who come to see us are in the dilemma of  ‘to work, to reduce  hours, to leave work or to keep on juggling until there is a crisis or indeed  another crisis’  as I always say….as carers we could join the circus for our juggling skills. I would also like to think my ability to spin plates would make me a good candidate for the circus too!

Lives can be pretty complicated and as we stretch ourselves thinner it’s always welcome to know the people we are working for and with understand the role of the working carer.

If I can put this simply, offering flexible working in the workplace as a way of supporting working carers is not just the law and about creating something to make people feel good …..But it is in my humble opinion, the right thing to do too.

Carers often walk the tightrope…..no matter what age they are! I’m never off it and my worry is I feel like sometimes I’m walking it with a blindfold on!   Hang on in there!

Val Hewison