£400k plan to support under-pressure carers

Respite: Mark Hyland
Respite: Mark Hyland
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A £400,000 plan to provide extra support to the Capital’s under-pressure carers has been unveiled in Edinburgh.

Under the proposals, voluntary carers who spend a significant amount of time looking after someone else could receive a one-off payment of up to £250 to spend on their own health and wellbeing.

An internet networking system, aimed at connecting people in need of support with volunteers, will be created while an emergency card scheme, which will provide help if a carer suddenly falls ill or has an accident, will also be set up.

Councillor Ricky Henderson, the city’s health leader, said: “Carers provide essential, quality care but without adequate support in place, they can become overwhelmed with their responsibilities and this can often lead to stress, anxiety or ill health.

“It’s important to provide carers with the support they need and these proposals have been put together following consultation with carers.

“Carers do what they do because of their commitment and their love for their partner, uncle or whoever it might be, but their health and wellbeing is important too. Perhaps they have been taken for granted for too long?”

It is believed that there are around 39,000 carers in Edinburgh, with 8000 providing at least 50 hours of unpaid care every week.

The pressures which are faced by carers, particularly those who are elderly, are beginning to be acknowledged.

In December, 84-year-old Aileen Hyland spoke about being a full-time carer for her son Mark, 46, who had Down’s Syndrome.

Aileen, of Willowbrae, had been widowed for 17 years and was in poor health, and revealed how her son’s short breaks to a respite care home allowed her to recharge her batteries.

The proposed payment of up to £250, internet networking system and emergency card scheme were backed in a consultation between the council’s health and social care department and carers, which took place in July and August.

The £400,000 had already been set aside to help carers in this year’s council budget.

Those qualifying for the one-off payment would be 
encouraged to spend the money on themselves, for example on gym membership or massage therapy. The payments scheme may be repeated in future years if it proves a success.

Under the internet networking system, it is hoped that more volunteers will be recruited and then matched with carers who they could provide support to by giving a few hours of their time to allow the regular carer a break.

The emergency card scheme will see a database of carers and the support they provide built up, so that if the carer is unable to deliver care for any reason the council will be able to step in. The proposals are set to be put before the council’s health, social care and housing committee next week.

Monica Boyle, the council’s head of older people and disability services, said: “Most people want to remain in their own home. By giving support to carers it enables a lot of people to be maintained in their own properties for a lot longer.”