Charity calls for NHS staff to have mandatory policies to identify carers
Carers UK carried out a survey of carers, which found that over half took over a year to recognise that they were a carer to an older or disabled loved one. Nearly a quarter took over five years, and nearly 10% took over ten years.
Parent carers, mental health carers and distance carers were particularly likely to take more than five years to identify their role.
Heléna Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK, said: “For many people, looking after an ill, older or disabled loved one doesn’t have a name, it is ‘just something you do’. However, not recognising you are carrying out a caring role can be a barrier to accessing vital support.”
The charity warned that carers were unable to access the services they are entitled to if they fail to identify their role.
Among the respondents, 91% said they had missed out on financial and practical support, with three-quarters saying missing out on support had caused them stress and anxiety and half saying it had affected their physical health.
Carers are more likely to have contact with NHS services, because of a lack of community support. Another recent Carers UK survey indicated that 9% of carers had used an A&E or 999 service when a loved one was ill because they didn’t know where else to turn for advice.
To address this, Carers UK called for NHS and education staff to have mandatory policies to identify carers and promote their health and wellbeing. This should involve education, information and training for a range of frontline professionals to increase knowledge and signposting of carers.
In addition, it said that local authorities should use the information and advice and prevention mechanisms in the 2014 Care Act to identify carers and refer them to information and advice, in partnership with the NHS.
Other recommendations included encouraging employers to support staff with caring responsibilities, and public awareness campaigns to improve understanding and recognition of caring.
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