This Carers Week we're asking could you - or someone you know - be an unpaid carer?
Unpaid carers in Scotland are entitled – by law – to seek help and support for the vital work they do caring for people in our community.
An unpaid carer is typically someone looking after a loved one or friend who has a long-term health condition. That can include a young person looking after a parent, a person helping a frail neighbour, or someone caring for their elderly parents or a partner who is struggling with their mental or physical health.
The amount and type of support that carers provide varies considerably. It can range from a few hours a week, such as picking up prescriptions and preparing meals, to providing emotional support or personal care day and night.
It’s believed there are around 4,000 unpaid carers in Orkney – but only around 300 are registered locally with Crossroads Orkney who work with the Council’s Orkney Health and Care team to provide support to carers.
The Carers Act, passed by the Scottish Government in 2018, enables unpaid carers to seek help and support from Councils and other support organisations. That support can include free respite care, counselling and access to training and support groups.
Olivia Tait is Manager at Crossroads Orkney: “Unpaid carers are the unsung heroes in Scotland and in Orkney, providing a vital service within our community – caring for people who otherwise would experience greatly diminished quality of life.
“We want all unpaid carers to be getting the help that they are entitled to, but our biggest challenge is that many unpaid carers perhaps don’t even recognise that they are, in fact, a carer.
“There may also be people who have been caring for someone for a while, and now find the pressures are increasing and they now need support to carry on that important role.
“Our message is you are entitled to support, we are here to offer that support, and you are not alone.
Issy Grieve is Chair of Orkney’s Integration Joint Board, the body responsible for commissioning health and care services for the county. “For many people, caring is just what they do and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“But we know that despite its rewards, caring can also have a huge impact on a carer’s life – their energy and health, their time, their finances.
“Part of our remit is to work through a multi-agency Carers Strategy Group to unpick challenges for unpaid carers, raise awareness of the support available, and make best use of the resources we have in Orkney to improve their quality of life and that of their loved ones.
”If you know someone who is caring for someone, encourage them to get in contact with Crossroads Orkney or the national carers helpline to find out more about the support available.”
To help raise awareness of unpaid carers in Orkney during Carers Week, Crossroads will have posters and leaflets in all rural shops, and in selected Kirkwall and Stromness shops, and will run an information stand in the foyer of Tesco, Kirkwall on Saturday 12 June.
The Council will also be sharing Carers Week social media from the CarersUK on its OIC Updates Facebook page over the course of the week.
To find out more about support for unpaid carers, contact Crossroads Orkney by telephone 01856870500 or by email.
You can also contact Care Information Scotland on telephone 0800 011 3200.
Carers Week is an annual awareness campaign run by Carers UK that celebrates and recognises the vital contribution of the UK’s unpaid carers – supporting family members and friends who are older, have a disability, mental or physical illness or need extra help as they grow older.
Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: “Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic unpaid carers have played an essential role supporting older, disabled and seriously ill relatives and friends, doing so most of the year on their own behind closed doors. They have forgone breaks from caring and much of the support they would normally have relied on.
“As restrictions ease it is vital that we acknowledge the enormous contribution that unpaid carers continue to make day in day out. I am delighted that many individuals and organisations are getting involved with virtual activities, helping carers to connect to others and access advice and information locally.
“Looking after someone can be a hugely rewarding experience, but it sometimes comes with difficulties, including getting the right support. This Carers Week I hope all parts of the community – family and friends, employers, businesses, schools, health and care services – do their bit to make caring visible and show it is valued.”