Earlier this month was National Carers Week and an important reminder of the enormous contribution made by the 650,000 unpaid carers in Scotland.
Many dedicate much of their lives to looking after a family member or a friend, often in very challenging circumstances. This can have a massive impact on their lives financially, socially and economically so I think it is vital that they receive all the help they need.
There are more than 37,000 unpaid carers in Edinburgh alone, which is 7.9 per cent of the total population. With demographic and social trends suggesting that the demand for carers will continue to increase, more acknowledgment and value must be placed on the growing contribution and number of unpaid carers in the Capital.
Their stories are truly inspirational and many have made sacrifices to care for someone in their family – including parents caring for disabled children, young people helping to care for siblings or a parent and older people caring for their spouses. Yet they can be overlooked despite the incredible work they do, as they often don’t recognise themselves as a carer.
This year has seen the passing of new legislation, the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016. This will give unpaid carers more rights, including a duty to be supported.
Growing numbers of people are balancing caring responsibilities for relatives with paid employment, but many feel forced to reduce their hours or give up work altogether. A recent survey in Edinburgh by the carers’ organisation VOCAL featuring responses from more than 700 Edinburgh carers found that 36 per cent had to reduce or give up work to care for others.
I thoroughly enjoy my Carers’ Champion role within the Council and feel fortunate to act as an ambassador for adult and young carers, meeting some truly inspiring people. Many are not aware of the support that is available to them and I want to help get the information out there as much as I can.
Some of the ways that the Council can offer support to carers includes short breaks and respite, carer’s emergency card, VolunteerNet, carer training, emotional support, information and advice. We work in partnership with the third sector including carers’ organisations to deliver these services.
For more information, visit the carers area on the Council website: www.edinburgh.gov.uk/carers.
• Councillor Norman Work is the Carers’ Champion at the City of Edinburgh Council