An estimated 35,000 Bolton residents provide care to a relative or friend, and the COVID-19 pandemic has shown more than ever the invaluable contribution these carers make.
An unpaid carer is someone of any age who helps a family member or friend with the kind of support and care that might otherwise be provided by the health and social care system.
This can include helping someone get washed and dressed, accompanying them to hospital appointments, administering medication, shopping, cooking, cleaning or providing emotional support.
While caring is a natural part of our relationships and can be very rewarding, there are also times when it is physically and mentally exhausting.
On top of the normal challenges faced by unpaid carers, Coronavirus has brought additional concerns around shielding, difficulty shopping for essentials, using PPE and more.
But many of those who do this incredible work do not recognise themselves as carers and are either unaware of, or are reluctant to accept, the help available to them.
The theme of Carers Week 2020 is “Making Caring Visible”, encouraging people to recognise themselves as carers and seek help from Bolton Council and its partners.
Unpaid carers can contact the council for an assessment and may be eligible for financial assistance via a direct payment.
I want to thank carers for continuing to do an incredible job while also coping with the stresses of the lockdown.
Bolton Council’s Executive Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, Cllr Andy Morgan, said:
“It is difficult to overstate the importance of unpaid carers.
“I want to thank them all personally for continuing to do an incredible job while also coping with the stresses of the lockdown.
“We have been supporting our unpaid carers in the community by ensuring the continuity of direct payments and providing PPE where possible.
“The council’s three-year Carers Strategy sets out our plan to work closely with partners to support the wellbeing of everyone providing informal care.
“It will be renewed this year, underlying our commitment to helping all unpaid carers.”
Among the council’s partners is Bolton Carers Support, a charity funded by Bolton Council, Bolton CVS, The National Lottery Community Fund along with some smaller grants.
It provides a confidential 24/7 helpline, as well as a sitting service, benefits advice, training, short breaks and opportunities to meet other carers within the community.
Georgette Kay, Chief Officer at Bolton Carers Support, said:
“Individuals often look after the person they love without being recognised for doing so and failing to see themselves as a carer.
“They continue to struggle on, making sure that the needs of the person they care for are met, while often neglecting their own needs, health and wellbeing.
“Carers Week creates an opportunity, at a time when we are more than ever dependent on our unpaid carers, for us to help carers get the practical, financial and emotional support they need to care for a loved one.
“When you look after someone, it can be hard work finding out what help you are entitled to and many carers miss out on support as a result. Caring is often very rewarding. Our service often makes the caring journey a little easier.”
Of the 35,000 unpaid carers in Bolton, an estimated 1,190 are young people.
Last year saw the launch of the Young Carers Service, jointly funded by the council and its key partner, Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group, to help these young people access a tailored package of guidance, support and information.
The service is run by Bolton Lads and Girls Club and welcomed its first young people in July 2019.
Dr Wirin Bhatiani, Chairman of Bolton CCG, said:
“We really value our young carers, who do a tremendous job at the best of times but may be struggling with the extra strain that the coronavirus lockdown is placing on them.
“They may be feeling more isolated, unable to meet friends or go to school because they are looking after a shielded person, facing financial pressures or difficulties getting food and medicine supplies, or coping with the stress of caring for someone who is ill.
“That’s why the CCG has agreed to fund more staff so the young carers service can significantly increase its capacity to support more young people.
“We hope this will help provide the practical and emotional support they richly deserve at this most difficult of times.”
Information on all the help and support available can be found online via our Carers information and services webpage.
Carers can contact the Bolton Carers Support 24/7 confidential helpline on 01204 363056.