1. ASK FOR A CARER’S ASSESSMENT
All carers are entitled to ask their local authority for a Carer’s Assessment. As well as looking at the help you might need with caring, the Carer’s Assessment also gives you the opportunity to discuss your own health and your work/life balance. You should then have the opportunity to access other help from the social services department, including emergency respite, care support and Direct Payments (which give you the freedom to choose and pay for the services the person you’re caring for needs
2. YOU’RE ENTITLED TO FINANCIAL SUPPORT
According to Carers UK, carers miss out on a whopping £1.1 billion of support each year. The benefits available to carers include a weekly Carer’s Allowance and is not means tested, which adds extra money to other benefits you may be receiving, such as Income Support or Housing Benefit. It’s important that you claim what’s yours. To find out more, call the Carer’s Allowance Unit on 0345 608 4321,
or the new national freephone benefit claim line on 0800 055 66 88 (textphone: 0800 023 48 88).
3. LOOK AFTER YOURSELF
Carers are one third more likely to suffer ill health than people without caring responsibilities. Whether you experience stress and anxiety over money or back pain caused by frequent heavy lifting, you must ensure you look after yourself. Telling your GP about your caring role means that your local practice will be aware of the impact caring could have on your health and should invite you in for a flu jab if necessary. According to Carers UK, ensuring your doctor knows about your responsibilities can also be a gateway to accessing other assistance such as counselling and referrals to your local social services department. Your local Disabled Living Centre will give you advice on equipment which might help ease the physical burden of caring. For more information call the Disabled Living Foundation helpline on 0300 999 0004 (email email@example.com).
4. HELP IS AVAILABLE ONLINE
If you have access to the internet (try your local library if you’re not hooked up at home), you’ll find a whole range of resources online. From the government website www.direct.gov.uk to the online discussion forums aimed at young carers run by The Carers Trust (www.youngcarers.net), you’ll find there is plenty of information to be had on the world wide web.
5. TAKE A BREAK
When you’re caring for someone round the clock it can seem like you never have a moment to yourself. Just like any full-time job, you need some time off and this is something that should be covered in your Carer’s Assessment. Sometimes it can help to have just a few hours a week to yourself. The person you care for may go into day care or an organisation such as Slough Crossroads could provide a few hours’ respite, but a longer break gives you a real chance to recharge your batteries. Your local authority might be able to provide a grant to allow you to take a holiday (whether with or without the person you care for) or for the person you care for to go into respite care for a period of time. Organisations such as Revitalise and Liveability provide essential breaks for disabled people and carers, or if you need to get away by yourself you could consider somewhere like the London guest house run by the Kiloran Trust (0207 602 7404 or www.kilorantrust.org.uk ). If you can’t obtain funding for a short break from your local authority, carers’ charities and disability organisations may be able to offer advice on other sources of finance.
6. IT’S WORTH SHOUTING ABOUT IT
Make sure people know you’re a carer. As well as informing social services and your GP, it’s important that friends, family and your employer are also made aware. Some of your closest family members might not realise the level of care you provide and if they don’t know, they can’t help. Inform your employer so that if you need to take time off for an emergency, your situation doesn’t come as a surprise to them. Under new legislation you’re entitled to ask for flexible working arrangements to accommodate your caring responsibilities. Your employer has the right to refuse but must provide a clear explanation for their refusal.
7. CONTACT YOUR LOCAL JOBCENTRE PLUS.
Taking on caring shouldn’t mean that you must automatically think you have to give up work. If you are looking to return to paid employment, Jobcentre Plus are able to provide grants to cover the cost of replacement care to enable you to do training or attend job interviews.
8. IT’S WORTH THINKING ABOUT THE FUTURE
Your caring role won’t necessarily last forever and, although it’s difficult to think about, there could come a time when you will no longer be required to care. You may feel lost and without purpose, so it’s important to think about this eventuality and what you’ll do if or when the time comes. Slough Crossroads recommend that carers keep as much of ‘normal’ life going as possible – try to maintain ties with work and friends, and keep up your hobbies and interests.
9. YOU ARE NOT ALONE
The 2011 census revealed that there are nearly 6.5 million unpaid carers in the UK who dedicate time to looking after their loved ones, friends or neighbours. So whether you’re a father caring for your disabled daughter or a young person looking after your depressed mum, it’s important to bear in mind that there are many others in the same boat and there’s no need to feel isolated.
10. THERE IS PLENTY OF SUPPORT OUT THERE
Be it financial, emotional or practical, there’s lots of support available to carers – the trick is knowing how to access it. As well as the financial help you can get through government benefits, there are a number of organisations that specialise in providing advice and assistance. Slough Crossroads, Carers UK and The Carers Trust operate advice lines, provide information on benefits and services, and run local support groups. In addition, there are local carers’ groups that meet regularly to provide mutual support as well as many small voluntary organisations which organise day trips, respite care, sit-in services to temporarily look after the person you care for, and social events.
Crossroads Care Slough
020 7378 4999
or contact CarersLine on 0808 808 7777 (Lines open Monday and Friday 10am-4pm)
0844 800 4361