As Covid stays with us, who will care for the carers?

Almost one in five people in the UK now provide unpaid care to family and friends. The impact on the carer’s wellbeing is also considerable, writes Linda Eades from The Charity for Civil Servants.

Since the coronavirus outbreak, the number of unpaid carers in the UK has risen by 4.5 million. According to a Carers UK report*, it is estimated that up to 13.6 million people provide unpaid care to a relative, friend or neighbour.

At The Charity for Civil Servants, we have been providing support to carers for more than a decade, starting with our Carer’s Passport service. A Carer’s Passport can be used by carers to outline their caring responsibilities to their employer. It opens up dialogue, identifies agreeable solutions between the employer and employee, and is transferable.

We’ve learnt a lot about the impact caring can have on people’s employment and life in general. Having a Carer’s Passport can reduce stress by helping carers to find alternative ways of coping other than having to leave work, reduce their hours or take annual leave or sick leave because of their caring responsibilities.

We then developed our Carer’s Statement, which is a document carers can use outside the workplace. This statement can be used to communicate a carer’s needs to care professionals to ensure they are fully aware of the impact of additional responsibilities on a carer’s life.

Our Carer’s Statement can also be used to inform Carers’ Assessments and Care Needs Assessments – and helps to avoid the need for a carer to repeatedly explain sensitive details.

In 2018, the Civil Service launched its own Carer’s Passport. As a result, The Charity for Civil Servants will replace our Carer’s Passport with a Carer’s Passport and Carer’s Statement Digital Tool to support the move by the Civil Service. The tool is designed to help carers to reflect and document their care responsibilities. Upon completion, they will receive a record of their answers to help them complete the Civil Service Carer’s Passport form. It also functions as a personalised action plan that contains tailored advice and signposts to additional resources. If the carer has requested a Carer’s Statement, this will also be provided.

"I wasn’t expecting the tool to develop an action plan for me, so that was a thoughtful and useful bonus. The links to resources in the action plan were also really helpful."

The digital tool is quick and easy to use and carers will receive their documents almost instantly. In the words of one carer: "I’ve just gone through the tool and I am really impressed. Using it, and being asked specific questions, made me think both about things that I could include in my passport that I had not done previously (for instance, the impact on personal relationships), and also made me think of sources of support that I hadn’t previously considered accessing, such as talking to my GP. I thought those aspects were really excellent and would be useful to me and other carers in my department. I wasn’t expecting the tool to develop an action plan for me, so that was a thoughtful and useful bonus. The links to resources in the action plan were also really helpful."

By auditing our Carer’s Passports and Statements, we have noticed that a number of carers weren’t accessing support and information for outside the workplace. Reasons included that they didn’t know where to start, realise what was available, or have time to do the necessary research.

Working in partnership with Carers UK, we developed our Carer's Digital Resource, which is available 24/7. The resource is packed with information and advice and is a great place to start for anything related to caring. It’s regularly updated with changes in legislation or benefits. This has proven particularly helpful during the pandemic, ensuring people are able to get the latest and most reliable information.

Caring for people with dementia

In partnership with Dementia UK, we have recently launched our dementia pilot service. It provides specialist information and support that can be delivered to communities across the UK. The service consists of a group of virtual clinics led by an Admiral Nurse, featuring a themed presentation and a question and answer session. It’s a chance for people to tap into the expertise of the Admiral Nurse and of others in the group. People can also book a one-to-one telephone consultation with an Admiral Nurse. 

These sessions are underpinned and accessed through a suite of self-help resources on their website featuring videos, downloads, a Chatbot and information curated into frequently asked questions about dementia, as researched by the Admiral Nurse helpline. You can access the Dementia UK service here.

We have also developed a series of webinars for people caring for someone living with dementia. In addition, we offer a downloadable Emergency Plan. The one thing Covid has taught us is to be prepared for anything. As a sole carer, this is especially important. If you were to experience an emergency or were taken ill, you need a plan in place.

The Charity for Civil Servants offers services covering wellbeing, money advice and financial support for all civil servants, including those who are carers. Our support for carers includes a range of financial support (subject to eligibility) covering costs incurred due to caring responsibilities, respite breaks, technology, equipment and adaptations. 

We understand the challenges that carers face. For advice, information and support, please get in touch with us – so that we can provide some care for you too.

Linda Eades is head of caring and health services at The Charity for Civil Servants

*Source: Carers UK – Caring Behind Closed Doors (6 months on) 2020

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