More than 150 carers and those who work in health and social care from across the county attended Carers in Bedfordshire’s Changing Lives Conference today (17 Nov).
The event was all about helping carers to make sense of and manage change. It was open to all unpaid family carers and professionals at Kings House, in Bedford and on Zoom. In total more than 200 people attended in person and online.
Vice President of Carers UK, Dame Philippa Russell, was the keynote speaker and she opened the event talking about The State of Caring in the UK:
- How the 10.5m carers in the UK save the economy £135billion a year, looking after someone who can’t cope without them.
- Nearly half of those care for more than 20 hours a week and many of those care 24/7.
- Half of all carers have not had a break in the last year and three quarters are exhausted and struggling to juggle care and work.
- One in five are in debt.
- More than 90 per cent of carers are worried about the cost of living.
She told carers: “Peer support is one of the best things you can get involved in and having an organisation that can be an advocate for carers, like Carers in Bedfordshire, is so important. The new Health and Care Act allows support organisations like Carers in Bedfordshire into the heart of local planning. Carers can also get involved and should be part of the conversation.”
Despite the bleak outlook for carers, “there are some good things to come” according to Dame Russell. Carers are getting the right to unpaid carers’ leave with the Carers Leave Bill, more money from the Government will become available for respite and carers need to be made aware they do have the right to a Carers’ Assessment, to find out if they’re willing to provide the level of care required and what would help them to do this.
At the conference there were dozens of information stands from partner agencies and the different teams within Carers in Bedfordshire. Carers heard from parent carer Cheryl Chapman and her journey with her disabled daughter to adulthood, who has recently moved into supported living. Her emotional story highlighted the difficult decisions carers have to make.
Other talks focused on:
- Care homes with Marie Taylor of Bedford Citizens Housing Association talking about the importance of carers having a good relationship with the care home: “Your knowledge is key. You’re critical to our success. Remember you’re still a carer too and you still need support.”
- Mental capacity with Jem Cassidy from Bedford Borough Council and how what is in a person’s best interests in assessing capacity is paramount.
- Power of attorney and deputyship with Nigel Ashton of Woodfines Solicitors. He urged people to prepare for “the life you don’t yet know.”
- Advocacy with Caroline Campbell of VoiceAbility explaining how they work with people of all ages to be heard and respected in decisions about health, care and wellbeing. Advocates can help carers to understand their rights and options.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Chris Stelling said: “We were delighted to be able to host a conference for carers for the first time in three years due to Covid. It was great to touch on so many issues affecting carers, especially in the tough times they are facing. The feedback we received was fantastic showing how carers and professionals got a lot out of it, and we were able to further support people in their caring roles.”