Carer Friendly Communities are aware of the part played by unpaid carers within their community. They have some understanding of a carer's daily reality; that they can be under a lot of pressure, and are often hidden from view.
When a community is Carer Friendly, every corner – from the hospital, workplace, primary school, to leisure services and beyond – will be geared towards addressing the needs of carers.
This means that if you're caring for someone unpaid, local services and systems will remove obstacles and make sure things are done differently so your life is a little bit easier.
'Doing things differently' would include an employer creating Carer Friendly policies by listening to the experiences of their workforce, or a GP practice offering alternative appointment times to carers unable to attend due to their caring responsibilities.
Carer Friendly Communities reach out to support carers where they can. Working together, Carers Week and all the partner organisations are committed to building communities like these.
What do carers say they want?
The Carers Week charities work with carers across the country and listen to what is important to carers and their families, and what they need from the people, organisations and services in their lives.
Carers say they want to live in communities that support them to care well and safely, that respect their caring role, and help them to be involved and consulted about the care and support of the person they care for.
Carers also say that they want to be supported to be healthy themselves, to be able to work if they want to, and to have a life of their own outside their caring role. They want to be treated as an individual with needs of their own, and not only as a carer of someone else.
'I am only recognised as being my wife's husband. I have never been asked what role I play in her care.'
'We are pleased to say that we have a good relationship with most of the more qualified professionals with whom we have to work. Many consultants realise that we know [our daughter] and her condition better than they ever could, and use the information we give them in order to treat her more effectively.'
'Generally I feel that my role as a carer is recognised and valued, but I sometimes feel awkward about joining in with the conversation in case my input is misconstrued as putting words into my partner's mouth.'
Why should communities be Carer Friendly?
3 in 5 of us will be carers in our lifetime. As our population ages and people live longer, often with complex health conditions, more and more of us will be called upon to care for an older, disabled or seriously ill loved one.
By 2037, there will be 9 million carers in the UK. Many people will care for someone multiple times in their lives, but often do not think of themselves as a carer - they are just a husband or wife, son or daughter, parent or friend, doing what needs to be done.
The human cost of our communities failing to support carers is high. People are rarely prepared for the huge impact that caring responsibilities can have on their lives, with 3 out of 4 carers saying they were not prepared for caring.
Caring can be a fulfilling and positive experience, but caring without enough support can also have a negative effect on someone's health, career, relationships and ability to live a life of their own outside their caring role.
'Support is offered but not always in the right way, and it can be patronising and difficult to get information.'
- Full-time carers are more than twice as likely to be in bad health than non-carers.
- 1 in 5 UK adults have seen their work negatively affected as a result of caring, including 2.3 million who have quit work and almost 3 million who have reduced their working hours to care at some point in their lives.
- More than half (54%) of carers are struggling to pay household bills or to make ends meet, and over a third (35%) are cutting back on essentials like food and heating.
- 40% of carers have had a breakdown in a relationship with a family member, and 60% have found it difficult to maintain friendships.
A lack of support for carers can also have serious consequences for business, the economy and society. Employers lose valuable employees when people feel they can no longer juggle work and care, and health and care services come under pressure when carers are pushed to breaking point.
- The cost to the economy of carers having to give up work to care is £5.3 billion.
- 6 in 10 carers have reached breaking point, and a quarter required medical treatment as a result.
It is clear that urgent steps must be taken to ensure that society and our immediate communities work for carers, and they can get the help and support they need.
From doctors to shopkeepers, pharmacists to employers, politicians to family members - there is more that we can all do to help the people around us and build Carer Friendly Communities which support carers to lead healthy, safe and fulfilling lives.
What difference would Carer Friendly Communities make?
In all corners of our communities, we see ways in which the support to carers could be improved. For many carers, that support is severely lacking. But, we also see good examples of how communities can become Carer Friendly.
In this section, we're using the following themes to explore how we can build Carer Friendly Communities: