New South Glos Carers Strategy will support carers of all ages

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South Gloucestershire Council has adopted a new Carers Strategy, which sets out priorities to support carers over the next five years.

The new strategy has been produced after listening closely to carers, who provide invaluable support to so many local residents who need help in their lives. Carers of all ages provide unpaid care to family and loved ones, for which as individuals and as a society, we must be incredibly grateful.

A carer can be anyone, of any age, who looks after a family member, partner or friend that needs help because of their illness, frailty, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction and cannot cope without their support. The work carers do is unpaid, but it is not unsupported.

The pandemic has been particularly tough for carers. Much of their work goes unseen and unrewarded at the best of times, but Covid-19 has often made their situation worse. Carers UK reports that most carers have had to provide more care during this difficult time, leaving many exhausted and close to burning out.

The council believes it is vital that local carers feel seen, heard and supported.

The starting point in developing the strategy was to talk with and listen to carers themselves. The resulting updated approach sets out a vision and four priorities to provide focus to the actions that the council and partners will deliver over the next five years to improve the lives of carers of all ages.

The strategy’s vision is:

  • For carers to be able to say that the support they receive in their caring role suits them as an individual
  • For carers to know where and how to access good quality information that will support them to provide care
  • For carers to feel understood, listened to and respected by professionals and to be able to achieve their own goals and maintain employment/study while providing care; and
  • For carers to be in control of the support they give as a carer, and able to live their lives the way they want to.

Based on this, the strategy sets out four priorities: Recognition for carers; Information and advice; Carer breaks; and Personalisation of the support on offer.

To give life and reality to the vision and deliver it in the most impactful way, the council will work closely with partners, agencies and organisations and continue to involve carers themselves to support their invaluable work and improve their lives. This work will include:

  • Educating organisations about the role of carers, carers’ rights and how to best support carers to maintain paid employment whilst also caring for someone
  • Working with acute hospitals to improve how carers are identified and supported when a loved one needs a hospital stay and in planning for when they come home
  • Creating clearer online information, advice and guidance for carers to access to understand what support is available, and how to access it
  • Reviewing how information on financial support and benefits can be made available more widely to ensure that carers are not financially disadvantaged by their caring role
  • Improving the timeliness of carers’ assessments for breaks and respite support so carers can receive the help they need when they need it
  • Developing more flexible services in the community, enabling carers to have a break from their role
  • Review and re-commission the support groups available for carers, so that the offer is dynamic and flexible to meet the varying needs of different carers, including people in more remote locations, on and offline, and outside of school/working hours.

Chair of the South Gloucestershire Health and Wellbeing Board and cabinet member responsible for adult social care at South Gloucestershire Council Councillor Ben Stokes, said: “It is impossible to overstate the value and the life-changing and life-improving impact of carers in our communities. We have and continue to support them, but we are committed as a council to doing more; to making support meaningful, available and accessible. That is how we are truly valuing their work.

“I want to say a big thank you to every carer who has given feedback, which has helped us shape this strategy. It’s been vital in helping understanding priorities for carers and has informed the work we will do for carers over the next five years.

“I am in no doubt that there is a lot for us to do as we go forward, but we will work closely with our partners and carers themselves to make sure that we provide the support they need, as they support the people they look after.”

Carer Advisory Partnership Member and active Carers’ Representative, Amanda Threlfall, welcomed the new strategy and the way it had been produced. She said: “As a carer, like many other carers, I feel invisible and unvalued. South Gloucestershire Council has given time and energy to listen to carers and understand their needs.

“The pandemic and cost of living are having significant impacts to carers and their wellbeing, both physical and emotional. This document recognises the sacrifices made by carers for the people they care for, and additionally recognises the carer as an individual with their own needs and aspirations.

“It will be a framework to support carers to improve their visibility and recognise the valued contribution they make to the health and care system, and the economic contribution and taxpayer savings the care they provide delivers to the country.”

A summary of the Carers Strategy 2022-2027 for carers, as well as the full document for stakeholders, can be found on the council website www.southglos.gov.uk/carers