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For media enquiries, please contact Maya Esslemont, Media and Case Studies Officer, or Chloe Wright, Head of Policy & Public Affairs (Carers UK).

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  • Case studies, good practice examples and spokespeople are available on request.

Lucy talks about juggling caring with studying

12 June 2017

For the last year, Lucy O'Brien, a 29-year-old mental health nursing student from the University of South Wales, has been the sole carer for her mother, who has terminal cancer and is now receiving palliative care at home.

An estimated 6m people in the UK are carers – giving their own time to help support a friend or relative with a disability, illness or condition.

IMG 9705My Bionic Woman
"It was on my mother's 50th birthday that she complained of having a bad back. She couldn't enjoy her birthday because of the pain.

X-ray results revealed that the breast cancer had spread to her bones, making it terminal. Since then, I have been my mother's right arm – taking her to appointments, performing personal care, nursing and giving her strength after each operation (11 in total). I call her the Bionic Woman!

Mam has always been fiercely independent, and was adamant that she didn't want to be looked after and bed bathed by a stranger, so we agreed that I would do all this for her. Luckily with my nurse training I'm trusted with the hoist to continue her personal care, even when in hospital.

She is so proud of me

Studying for my nursing degree alongside caring for my mam has been really tough, but in many ways it has been my saviour. Having something else to think about and focus on, just for a few hours, really helps. There can be a huge amount of emotional stress with being a carer; life is unpredictable because mam's health varies so much.

I am so lucky that I have a supportive tutor, Karyn Davies, who has pulled me through the tough times at University, practically and emotionally, and has allowed me to not be there when I'm needed at home.

My friends on the course are wonderful too. If I miss a class or when we have essays to do, they will organise study groups. And when I am having a bad day, one of them will drive over and pick me up and take me to Uni. They have been my life line.

I promised my mother that her illness wouldn't affect my studies. She was very proud when I made the decision to become a nurse. It was because of Mam that I decided to study nursing, but it was seeing the effect of her illness on my dad that prompted me to choose mental health nursing. I could see how much he was struggling with it inside. Men are often not very good at talking about their problems, are they?

My fighting spirit comes from her

There have been times when the doctors haven't wanted to treat Mam because they didn't think she would pull through but I've dug in my heels, used my nursing knowledge and fought their decision. I think I get my stubborn streak from her!

She says she wouldn't be alive if it wasn't for me. Now on good days, we're able to go out with her mobility scooter, and visit my nephew and niece, and she's able to enjoy what time she has left with her family.

Because I get a bursary with the nursing degree, I don't qualify for a carer's allowance. Luckily, dad works full time and I do bank shifts in the night to bump up my bursary; otherwise, I think I would struggle.

It is easy to see how being a carer can adversely affect your education, as well as your health and mental wellbeing but I won't let it. I have a great family network, and we all play our part, Dad supports me financially when I'm unable to work, and my brother is my rock. I'm a strong believer in being outdoors. I ride my horse, kayak and take the dog out as ways to relieve stress.

Cancer won't dictate my life
I wish there wasn't such a 'one-size-fits-all' approach to care and support. We didn't want someone to come in and do all the personal care for Mam, but that's all that was on offer. For me, it would be a help to know that someone was popping in to check on Mam during the day and being a friendly face.

Just because you are a carer, it doesn't mean you can't follow your dreams and take on a degree at the same time. Yes, it's hard, but it is possible as long as you have the motivation and good family and friends around you.

I can't - and won't – let cancer win and dictate my life. Just as my mum has fought so hard and defied many odds, so will I. She's so strong and she is my inspiration."

Lucy will be an amazing nurse
Lucy's tutor Karyn Davies said: "Not only is Lucy doing really well academically, but she is also receiving positive reports and feedback from her mentors out in clinical practice. Undertaking a Mental Health nursing degree can be challenging at the best of times and despite Lucy's current personal situation as a carer for her mum she continues to demonstrate real commitment to becoming a registered nurse. I anticipate that with support, Lucy will continue to do well with her studies and become a real champion for mental health nursing."

James' story highlights the challenges of work and care

12 June 2017

James, 28, became a carer literally overnight. His dad, Owen, had a fall and was paralysed below the neck. As an only child James' life changed.

Dad was an imposing man both in terms of his character and physical appearance. He was always sure of himself and decisive. Growing up, I have a lot of memories of visiting him at work, where he was in charge of health and safety on London's largest building sites.


When I was 12 my parents separated and I spent equal amounts of time with mum and dad. But, by my early 20s we had a functional, but not particularly close relationship. I saw him once a month or so for a catch-up in the pub. I was enjoying starting my career, socialising, playing sports and basically being young and relatively care free.

Caring came suddenly to me: I got a phone call one morning and was told dad had fallen over, and a neighbour had called an ambulance. A previous injury, which he was undergoing tests for, had limited his ability to move his arms. This meant that when he fell at home he couldn't break his fall. Most of the impact was taken by his chin and he injured his spine.

Dad could have fallen a thousand other ways or on any other day when his arms weren't in such a bad way and this wouldn't have happened.

After hours in A&E, we were told that dad would undergo an operation. In just one sentence they sent us into total shock saying, "he might be able to walk again after the operation".

Being an only child, I knew that there was nobody else to help dad. I didn't think I could live with the guilt if I did nothing. In the following weeks I saw dad every night after work and at the weekends. I fed him, monitored everything happening in hospital and tried to keep him company.

As months went by there were many unknowns about what care he'd need, how we would pay for it and how much dad would recover – if at all.
I hoped for the best, but I also prepared for the worst. Dad was a lot more hopeful and wasn't coming to terms with the worst case scenario. That didn't make it easy when we found out that dad had not gained any meaningful movement and was paralysed below the neck.

Before dad's accident I was a young adult, working out life, free from any responsibility and now I've become a kind-of parent overnight. Except, unlike a parent, I know that dad won't need me less as we get older, in fact he'll never regain his independence.

In the two and a half years since my dad's accident I've approached things very differently, I've realised that leaving things until tomorrow isn't worth it. My dad was looking to the future and planning to travel during his retirement. Now, both our lives have drastically changed.

I try to be proactive and do everything I can to make things better for us. I do my best to manage all of dad's care as well as his practical and financial affairs. He has to have 24-hour medical care, which is paid for by the NHS. I've done a lot of research and tried to find help. That's how I discovered Carers UK and used their adviceline to ask questions.

Dad doesn't like to ask for help. He's pushed his friends away because he feels embarrassed and doesn't want people to see him. His personality has changed; he can no longer make decisions and has fallen into depression. It puts a lot more pressure on me and I find it very difficult to deal with his depression – I feel frustrated sometimes.

I've sought help at work and have been supported by my manager and our employee assistance programme. Transport for London are members of Carers UK's Employers for Carers (EFC) group, there are 3,000 carers at TFL and our aim is to reach all of them.

Things do seem more settled now because there are fewer unknowns about his condition and care. I know whatever happens I'll have to cope with it alone. Caring is very lonely. I see other people my age carrying on as normal, whiling away a whole weekend, or just packing up and living abroad. I don't know what I'll be able to do, my future feels less open now.

I feel like anything could happen in life, that's why I did the Camino walk across Spain, it was something I've always wanted to do and I thought, why put it off?
If you're caring, I think you should always ask for help, it's not a weakness. Tell people when you're not coping, if you need some time, or you need someone to cut you some slack or just give you a hug, then let people know.

Sue explains the difference a carer friendly GP can make

12 June 2017

Former carer Sue tells us how a GP surgery supported her when she was caring for her mum, who had Alzheimer's

Carer friendly example Sue

I was with mum when she got her diagnosis and it was a shock, even though I had suspected for a few years that she wasn't well. I didn't know what to do or what would happen in the future. My mum's GP didn't just give us her diagnosis and send us on our way; he was very helpful. He printed off information on Alzheimer's and identified me as a carer, pointing me to support.

As time went on the doctor continued to be helpful, allowing me to go into appointments with her and keeping me up-to-date. He was easy to       talk to and supportive of my situation as well as mum's.

Once, during an appointment with my own doctor, at a different surgery, it came up in the conversation that I was caring for Mum. They put a note on my records that I was a carer. From then on, my GP always asked me how I was and how I was coping. It meant a lot to me and I felt like I was being treated as a person with needs of my own. My surgery understood that caring meant my time was precious and I couldn't drop everything even for a medical appointment.

As many other carers will recognise, I only had a small window of time in which I could get away from my caring role. My surgery always made my appointments urgent so I could get one quickly. It made me feel as though my health mattered too.

If mum's GP hadn't told me about Carers UK, I wouldn't have found the support that I did. Without this advice, I wouldn't have found information, shared experiences and friends on the Carers UK forum.

In some respects, I feel lucky that my experience with our surgery has been so good and I know that not everyone has had the same treatment, neither from the NHS or the wider community. But carers don't want to be 'lucky'; which is why building carer friendly communities is so important. It doesn't matter whether it's a local doctor's surgery, a park or a shop, it makes a world of difference when communities do what they can to make caring that little bit easier.

Not enough value placed on unpaid care, says general public

09 June 2017

The UK public does not feel that unpaid carers are sufficiently valued, according to a new online public poll published today (12 June) for the start of Carers Week.

More than 7 in 10 (74%) of the UK public feel carers are not sufficiently valued by society for the support they provide and this figure rises to just over eight in ten (83%) of those who have previous experience of caring themselves. The unpaid care provided by the UK's carers has been estimated to be worth £132 billion a year .

More than 6.5 million people in the UK are currently providing care for an older, disabled or seriously ill loved one. The numbers of unpaid carers is rising faster than the general population. Each day, 6000 people take on a caring role but the poll showed that many people are unaware how likely it is they would take on a caring role and would be unprepared if they did become a carer. One in five people aged 50-64 are carers yet half of those who are not currently carers (50%) thought it unlikely they would ever become a carer.

When asked their top three concerns, affordability of care and the impact on their finances is the top worry (46%) for people who have never had a caring experience if they were faced with taking on a caring role. Coping with the stress of caring (43%) is the second biggest worry.

Nearly a third who have never cared for someone (32%) said they would worry they didn't have the skills or experience to become a carer and more than a quarter (26%) said they would worry about the impact of caring on their physical health.

Carers have worse health than the general public; carers providing 50 hours or more a week of care are more than twice as likely to be in bad health as non-carers . Worryingly, almost a quarter of those polled who have never cared (23%) would not know or understand what help would be available if they became a carer.

The online YouGov poll was conducted on behalf of eight major charities who are calling on the new UK Government and society to do more to recognise the important contribution that unpaid carers make and support them to care.

Heléna Herklots CBE, on behalf of Carers Week, said:

"It is deeply concerning that three-quarters of respondents feel carers are undervalued by society for their contribution and this figure rises further for those who have caring experience themselves.

The Carers Week charities seek to raise awareness of the huge contribution that carers are making every day to the lives of the family and friends they support and to their communities.

In Carers Week we're calling on the public, government and all parts of society to play their part in supporting carers by helping to build communities that recognise and understand the value and needs of carers. From hospitals that provide discounts for carers in their cafés, or workplaces that give employees paid leave for caring; to offering to shop for a friend who struggles to get out of the house, there are hundreds of small changes we can make to ensure our communities become more carer friendly.

We urge our new Government to do more to value and recognise the contribution made by the UK's 6.5 million unpaid carers and urgently set out its plans by publishing a strategy for carers. As a society we depend on unpaid carers – it's time we had a plan for how to better recognise and support them."

Thousands of events and activities are taking place across the UK for Carers Week with hundreds of individuals and organisations pledging to play their part in building Carer Friendly Communities.

Download research report


Charities join forces to Build Carer Friendly Communities

24 February 2017

Eight major charities have combined forces to get communities across the UK involved, encouraging people to register events and pledge support in the run-up to Carers Week 2017 (12-18 June) – a national awareness week that celebrates and recognises the vital contribution made by the 6.5 million people across the UK who currently provide unpaid care for a disabled, ill or older family member or friend.

David Mowat MP, Minister for Community Health and Care, joined senior representatives from the Carers Week charities, NHS, local government and business to launch community engagement for Carers Week encouraging local organisations, the public and carers to get involved in the week and pledge their support to build Carer Friendly communities.

Carers Week helps the public to understand more about caring, highlights the challenges carers face and celebrates the contribution carers make to their families and communities throughout the UK. The campaign galvanises support from all corners of society, including individuals, local organisations, businesses, politicians and the media. It will also be a time of intensive local activity with thousands of events taking place across the UK.

Caring can be a rewarding experience but without the right support many carers find themselves facing financial hardship, ill-health, emotional stress, relationship breakdown and isolation.

Carers Week 2017 will again focus on building Carer Friendly Communities – places that understand a carer's daily reality and do what they can to make life a little bit easier for them. For example, a GP practice might offer appointment times that fit around someone's caring responsibilities, or an employer might support employees who juggle work with care to work flexible hours or take time off.

David Mowat MP, Minister for Community Health and Care, said:
"Carers make an invaluable contribution to society — and I was delighted to join colleagues in promoting Carer Friendly communities. We are already working hard to support them and have introduced huge reforms, including a duty for local authorities to assess any carer who requires support. But we can all play a part to make sure our communities are carer friendly — I commend the Carers Week campaign to raise awareness of this vital issue."

Heléna Herklots CBE, on behalf of Carers Week, said:
"Carers Week is a fantastic way to celebrate the vital contribution carers make to our families, communities and wider society. We know that caring for a loved one can be a rewarding experience, but without the right support at the right time, caring can also have a huge impact on a carer's emotional and physical health, work and finances.

"Carers have told us that it makes a huge difference to their lives when they are supported by their local services and communities; building Carer Friendly communities, whether that's offering a flexible GP appointment, having flexible working policies or raising awareness in schools of caring, can make a positive difference.

"We want the public to recommend Carer Friendly communities and urge everyone to pledge their support to carers and make a change."

There are lots of different ways to get involved in Carers Week:

Caitlin’s Wish: Raising awareness for young carers

09 June 2016


Victoria's daughter, Caitlin


By Victoria Lewin. 


The 2011 UK census stated that there were 200,000 young carers in the UK, but subsequent research shows that this figure is inaccurate – indeed it’s just the tip of the iceberg!

Dreams Come True: The Odd Pigeon

09 June 2016





I’m Olivia, I’m 14 and I’ve been caring for my mother, who has MS, for the past six years. I am always on the go. If I’m not at home, I’m either at school or at work earning money to save for when we need it most.

We are a single-parent family. Mum, my two brothers and I are all very closely connected. We have strong family ties, partly down to MS.

Carers Week 2018

These organisations joined together to make Carers Week happen in 2017

  • logo01
  • Carers UK new logo
  • image description
  • independent age
  • macmillan
  • MSS-logo-orange partnersrow
  • MND logo
  • Which Elderly Care logo

Proudly supported by:

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    Charitable Foundation
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