Supporting Family Carers

August 3, 2020 Blog - ENABLE Scotland Jan Savage

Lockdown has meant different things to many of us, and the lessons about how we live and work will have far reaching consequences for a long time to come. Everyone’s experience of lockdown has been, and will continue to be, different. For those families who have additional caring responsibilities, there is no doubt that lockdown has been tough. 

According to Carers Scotland: There are 759,000 adult carers in Scotland – 17% of the adult population. By 2037 the number of carers in Scotland will have increased to around 1 million. Over half of Scotland’s carers also hold down work on top of their caring responsibilities, and it is estimated that family carers save the Scottish economy £10.3 billion – more than 3 times the annual social care budget. 

Whilst every family carer I have ever met would not have it any other way, it is a tough job, and it takes its toll on people’s own health and wellbeing. 8 in 10 carers say their health is worse because of caring. 

To help carers to stay healthy so that they can continue to care for their loved one, many carers access short breaks from organisations like ENABLE Scotland. But during lockdown, most of these services had to be suspended, leaving many family carers whose support services have been closed or reduced during the coronavirus crisis overwhelmed and close to burnout.

One UK-wide study of nearly 5,000 unpaid family carers by Carers UK found that reduced care and support services had left many families with no choice but to care around the clock for loved ones with complex health conditions and disabilities. Most felt ignored and invisible and were worried about what would happen to the people they cared for if they had to self-isolate or became ill. 

While we rightly clapped for carers every week during lockdown, I am not sure that these family carers got enough recognition for their role in keeping people safe and well; in fact, I would go so far as to say that family carers have largely been ignored in public discussions about the pandemic.

Since lockdown, the teams in our charity services have been doing a great job to provide flexible support and advice to families. Our brilliant projects in Fife, Midlothian and East Renfrewshire have continued to support families with advice and support, as has our national specialist Welfare Rights service, which has supported 98 people since April 2020. 

We have promoted our emergency planning toolkit for carers, provided accessible information for family carers which has been issued to or accessed online by 3,500 people, and we have delivered ACE Connect, which in addition to providing support for individuals has also provided some time for rest for family carers as their loved one has been involved in activities. Over 250 hours of ACE Connect activity has been delivered since lockdown. 

But we want to do more for family carers – and so that is exactly what we are doing!

Thanks to some funding from the Scottish Government’s Wellbeing Fund and the ongoing support of our fundraisers doing the Virtual Kiltwalk, ENABLE Scotland is offering an exciting new charitable service – Family Connect.

Developed in consultation with our members, the new service offers families advice and guidance, support with health and wellbeing, relaxation, information about their rights as carers, and connection with a peer group.

Family Connect is open to any family member of an adult or child who has a learning disability, and families will have access to:

  • Online sessions delivered through Zoom allowing connections with peers who will form a peer-support network;
  • A dedicated helpline which can be called or emailed for support and advice;
  • A Facebook page acting as a Hub for information sharing and Facebook Chat groups with moderated Live Chat sessions;
  • A new library of fact sheets and guidance on a range of topics to support families including:
    • Carers Rights
    • Health and Healthcare
    • Welfare Rights
    •  Education
    •  Employment
    • Self-Directed Support
    • and much more!

ENABLE Scotland was founded by five sets of families 66 years ago. As we emerge from lockdown, our new Family Connect offering is there for this generation of family carers – using our digital technology to its best advantage – as a fitting legacy of our experiences during lockdown, and a tribute to the impact of unpaid carers across the country.

Please get involved and help us shape this service – find out more here, and follow us on twitter @ENABLEScotland

Jan Savage

Director of External Affairs

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