A carer is anybody who looks after a family member, partner or friend who needs help because of their illness, frailty or disability. All the care they give is unpaid.
Many carers don't see themselves as carers. It can be difficult for carers to see their caring role as separate from the relationship they have with the person they care for, whether they are a parent, son, daughter, sibling or friend. Many carers have little time to themselves and can feel emotionally drained or stressed and feel socially excluded. There are over six million carers in the UK (information from Carers UK).
The responsibilities and demands of being a carer often mean that carers overlook their own health and wellbeing. Carers need good sources of help, support and information as they are often focused solely on the health and wellbeing of the person they care for.
There are several groups and information to support Carers, they can vary from local to national, from related to disability or about caring, below is a small selection:
• Hampshire county council have information on being a carer and an online course called ‘Carer aware’
• Carers Together
• Carers Direct helpline on 0300 123 1053 provides confidential information and guidance on a number of topics – carers can also email queries to helpline advisers
• local carers' centres, such as those run by the Carers Trust
• local voluntary organisations with services for carers and the people they care for, such as Age UK, the Citizens Advice Bureau and Mind
• national caring organisations, such as Carers UK
• Young carers
The government also recognises the contribution carers make and there are five main acts of parliament for carers:
- The Carers (Recognition and Services) Act 1995
- The Carer and Disabled Children Act 2000
- The Carer (Equal Opportunities) Act 2004
- Equality Act (2010)
- Health and Social Care Act 2014
Young carers are also supported by Children Act 1989.
Carers are entitled by law to a carers needs assessment if they provide (or intend) to provide a substantial amount of care on a regular basis. However it is important to acknowledge this is not a right to a service.
If a carer is also in paid work they have rights under the Employment Act 1996, Work and Families Act 2006 and Equality Act 2010. These acts bring legal rights of flexibly working and emergency time off for carers. Employers have to give serious consideration to flexible working and have a generous business reason to refuse working arrangements. Employees who are also carers cannot be treated within work less favourably then their colleagues.
If a carer is not in paid work they may be entitled to certain benefits for example Carers Allowance, income support and pension credit. This is explained fully on the government website.