A week-long celebration of the astonishing contribution Sheffield’s 65,000 carers make to the city begins today.
Carers’ Week is an annual national campaign to raise awareness of caring, recognising the difference it makes and highlighting the challenges carers face.
In Sheffield, nine events are planned around this year’s theme of ‘healthy and connected’, two things carers say can be difficult to maintain along with their other responsibilities.
The week is intended to be a celebration of the role carers play, but organisers also hope it will also allow them to reach out to people who are unaware of the support available.
Sheffield Carers’ Centre chief executive Pauline Kimantas said: “Sheffield’s health and social care system would collapse without the massive contribution of the 65,000 unpaid carers in the city. It’s vital that our city’s carers are recognised, valued and supported.
“Carers are everybody’s business. It’s up to everyone – whether in health or social care, businesses or communities – to make sure that carers get what they need, so they that can carry on looking after people who are ill, disabled, elderly or frail.”
This year, special emphasis is being placed on the role of young carers, with an estimated 7,000 young people providing care for someone in their family every day.
Katie Borland, from Sheffield Young Carers Service, said: “Young carers are a largely hidden group due to the stigma attached to their caring and the fear of what might happen if people find out.
“The impact of being a young carer is often underestimated too. The children and young people we support take on some very adult roles and responsibilities – like taking their younger siblings to school, calling for an ambulance and worrying about the person they care for while they are at school – which can have a really big impact on both their physical and mental health and wellbeing.
“Young carers often miss out on sleep, struggle to eat well and miss out on opportunities to socialise and play out with their friends.”
For a full list of all the events taking place, visit https://sheffieldcarers.org.uk/carers_week.
Case Study - Jo forces to give up work to look after vulnerable brother
Jo Shepherd has been a full-time carer for her brother, who experiences mental health difficulties, for the past 3 years. At times he has tried to harm himself. His condition has worsened over the last 18 months and she has had to give up work, and her Open University course has been put on hold.
What does being a carer involve for Jo? “Just about everything! Sorting appointments out, talking on the phone to hospitals, doctors, quite a lot of meetings with mental health services, taking my brother out – it involves a lot of planning. It’s full on, dealing with emotional stuff and being physically knackered.”
It is both rewarding and a real challenge to be a carer. Jo knows that she does all she can to support her brother, but it comes with a cost. “The focus is all on the person being looked after, you can forget who you are. Everything’s on hold in my life.” Being part of a local art group where she and her brother can draw and paint ‘keeps us going’, she says, as does the help she receives from Sheffield Carers’ Centre.
“They’ve been fantastic. I’ve received advice on how to sort out Carers’ Allowance, getting my brother a bus pass and I call the advice line to offload if it’s been a bad week. I was able to use money from the ‘break fund’ to have some time for myself, which was a God-send!”
Case Study - Archie, 11, provides dad with emotional and physical support
Archie is 11 and he cares for his dad, Tom. Tom was a university lecturer until mental health issues and debilitating arthritis forced him to stop working. There are days when Tom can’t leave his bed or get up from the settee and on several occasions Archie has had to phone an ambulance because his dad hasn’t been able to get up after falling over.
Archie provides his dad with physical and emotional support and they have a brilliant relationship, but Archie worries a lot about his dad’s health. He also gets very tired and struggles to do his homework.
When our support worker Luke met Archie, he told him he wanted to work on his confidence and find out more about mental health and arthritis so that he could understand his dad’s health issues better. Luke suggested some work around emergency planning too, in case Archie ever needed to call an ambulance again. Archie really enjoyed joining the group for 8-12 year-olds and meeting and playing games with other young carers of the same age.
His dad Tom, who is receiving additional support from Helen, one of our two Family Project Workers, said: “Since joining Sheffield Young Carers all I’ve witnessed and experienced is total professionalism, trust, care and joy. You’ve given my boy and me an anchor for a better future – thank you.”