I am delighted to be supporting Carers Week (8th-14th June) again in 2020. Please get involved where you can and join the thousands of people who will be coming together to #MakeCaringVisible! Find out more at www.carersweek.org/get-involved

Carers Week exists to shine a spotlight on the millions of people across the UK – including 9,106 in Lewisham Deptford – who provide unpaid care and support to a family member or friend who has a disability, mental or physical illness, or needs extra help as they grow older.

Whilst caring can be hugely rewarding, it also brings significant challenges. 1.2 million carers currently live in poverty, many have significantly worse health and wellbeing outcomes, and carers are seven times more likely to report being lonely or isolated than non-carers.

The number of people providing unpaid care in our communities has risen dramatically in recent years. The latest estimates (from before the coronavirus crisis hit) suggest nearly 9 million people in the UK – including 1 in 5 women – now have unpaid caring responsibilities. The average person has a 65% chance of providing care at some point in their lifetime.

The support collectively provided by this army of unpaid carers is vast, accounting for most of the care provided in any given year. The value of unpaid care provision in the UK is estimated to be around £132 billion per year, roughly the same as the NHS’s annual running costs.

With the challenges posed by coronavirus, it is more important than ever that we recognise what so many are doing daily to support others. While much of the national focus has rightly been on NHS and social care staff, it is important to remember that unpaid carers have been invaluable in supporting the most vulnerable in our communities throughout this crisis

In its recent ‘Caring Behind Closed Doors’ report, Carers UK found 70% of carers are providing more care, and on average, providing 10 extra hours of care a week, since the crisis began. 55% have been left feeling overwhelmed and are worried about burning out in the coming weeks as a result.

This morning I attended a virtual coffee morning with Jennifer, Ann, Beverley and Ritson, four of the carers who are involved with Carers Lewisham. They all care for parents and partners, supporting people with a range of issues from vascular dementia to cancer. Their dedication is absolutely clear, but they were also very honest about the problems they face.

Some discussed how difficult it is to care alongside working and homeschooling their children, whilst others have had to give up work altogether to care for loved ones. All of them spoke about how lockdown has exacerbated the difficulties associated with caring and made it harder than ever to get any time to themselves.

Despite the huge contribution that carers make, all too often they feel undervalued and go without the support they need. Organisations like Carers Lewisham provide a vital range of services including advice, information, emotional support, breaks, opportunities to meet other carers, relaxation days and well-being sessions, coping strategies and specialist support. However, these services are desperately underfunded, despite the absolutely vital services they and their users provide.

This is why Carers Week matters. As an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, Carers Week highlights the challenges unpaid carers face and recognises the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK. It also helps people who do not think of themselves as having caring responsibilities to identify as carers and access much-needed support and information.

This Carers Week I will be raising awareness of those caring both in Parliament and here in Lewisham Deptford, and pushing the Government to provide more support for carers.

Please join me in showing the thousands of unpaid carers in Lewisham Deptford that you value what they do for our community. Visit https://www.carersweek.org/get-involved to pledge your support to Carers Week, and add your voice to the fight to make life better for carers.

I have also posted a list of helpful resources for carers here: https://www.vickyfoxcroft.org.uk/in-lewisham-deptford/2020/06/02/1099/

Screenshot of virtual coffee morning with Carers Lewisham
Screenshot of virtual coffee morning with Carers Lewisham
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