“Thanking us is one thing, helping is another” - Unpaid carers react to PMs #CarersWeek comment
Last week was #CarersWeek, the annual campaign to raise awareness of caring and highlight the challenges unpaid carers face.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson mentioned Carers Week in the Houses of Parliament during Prime Ministers Questions, saying:
“Mr Speaker, this week is Carers Week, and I’m sure the whole House will wish to join me in thanking care workers and everyone caring for family and loved ones. Their selflessness and devotion to helping others is an inspiration to us all.”
On behalf of all the organisations involved with #CarersWeek this year, we want to thank the Prime Minister @BorisJohnson for talking about the essential role unpaid carers play at the beginning of Prime Minister’s Questions today. Let’s all #MakeCaringVisibleAndValued. #PMQs pic.twitter.com/80KORIaySb— Carers Week (@carersweek) June 9, 2021
However, many carers have reacted to this statement, calling for more representation of family carers and a clear distinction between paid care workers and unpaid carers. The carer community is once again feeling undervalued and invisible.
Another Twitter user also expressed their frustration with the muddling together of care workers and unpaid carers, asking whether or not the PM even knew the difference.
This year, the aim of carers week was to Make Caring Visible and Valued, bringing together organisations and individuals across the country to recognise the contribution unpaid carers make to families and communities throughout the UK.
For the 6.5 million people in the country currently looking after a family member or friend, being a carer isn’t just for Carers Week; it’s 24/7, 365 days of the year.
Unpaid carers have saved the government £132 Billion during the pandemic by looking after their loved ones during a time that has seen social care teams stretched beyond their limits. The number of social care professionals has dropped drastically as staff take time off or decide to leave the profession due to work-related stress. This leaves unpaid carers in the unfavourable position of having to pick up the slack at a time they themselves need the additional support.
And a new report released during Carers Week reveals that 72% of carers have not had any break from their caring role at all. What’s more, a third used the time off to complete practical tasks or housework, and a quarter to attend their own medical appointments.
Six charities (Carers UK, Age UK, Carers Trust, Motor Neurone Disease Association, Oxfam GB and Rethink Mental Illness) called upon the UK Government to provide £1.2 billion funding for unpaid carers’ breaks so that those providing upwards of 50 hours of care can take time off for their own health and wellbeing.
Other political leaders and figures spoke out during Carers Week, with Jeremy Corbyn taking to Twitter to spotlight unpaid carers and young carers:
It is wrong that the largest workforce in the UK - 13.6 million #UnpaidCarers who save taxpayers billions - receive no wages, time off or pension. #YoungCarers struggle at school & adults lose careers & suffer health & financial problems. #RealCarersWeek #Carers #VisibleAndValued— Jeremy Corbyn (@jeremycorbyn) June 7, 2021
Meanwhile, Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey - a carer for much of his life for his mum and nanna when he was younger and now for his disabled son - discussed the feelings of frustration, added pressures of the pandemic and utter exhaustion experienced by the carer community in the UK:
“This week is Carers Week, which means government ministers will suddenly remember we carers exist and post messages of support on social media. But judge them by their actions throughout the year rather than hollow messages.”
Under the hashtag #RealCarersWeek, carers have been sharing their opinions on the much-needed changes needed to improve carers lives.
Katy Styles, a carer and founder of the We Care Campaign that strives to value the UK’s 7 million unpaid carers, created a Real Carers Week bingo card collating all the phrases and empty gestures carers frequently face.
Following on from Carers Week 2021, we're creating a series of interviews "I'm more than a carer", exploring the real thoughts and feelings of family carers in their own words. We want to hear your experiences so other carers can understand they are not alone.
Please share your own experiences by clicking the image below