June is the month when Carers’ week encourages us to recognise the role of carers in our society. Over the years I’ve met so many people who selflessly work hard caring for their loved ones. I well remember one woman who looked after both her elderly mother and, separately, her disabled son whilst holding down a job. I remember a young teenager whose growing years were spent looking after her disabled mum and helping bring up the younger children in the family. They were heroes, doing all this for love and not reward and they were exhausted.
There are untold numbers here in Rochdale and literally millions of unpaid carers in modern Britain, people who look after family members or friends and cater for their needs. For them Carers’ week is a bit double-edged as many point out to me that they are carers not just for one week but often for 52 weeks every year.
A number of local carers wrote to me recently telling me about their own circumstances, some looking after elderly parents with dementia, some looking after family members with disabilities, some able to work, one who had to give up work and is living off her savings. These are dedicated people who don’t begrudge their time but they nearly always share a common demand; some time off to recharge and recover. A recent study of carers told us that half of them had not had a break in years and I know this is commonplace. Rochdale carers asked me to ask the Government to publish a short-term Recovery and Respite Plan for Unpaid Carers, outlining additional support for carers across a range of areas – including breaks, respite and care services, infection control, identification of carers, financial help, and support to juggle work and care. And of course I will because they are right to ask for this help.
But there is no central register of carers and every carer has their own circumstances. So for carers in Rochdale I’m more than happy for you to tell me your own stories because it helps me to make the case to government ministers (email@example.com or c/o House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA). Unpaid carers give so much to those they care for and in the end save us all what would be a huge price tag if they were not there.
So yes let’s celebrate Carers’ week each year but by trying to make life a little easier for carers every week.
This article was originally published in the Rochdale Observer on 2 July 2022.