Carers Week is here again, providing another great opportunity to raise awareness of the crucial role that family, friends and carers have in supporting people to lead the lives they want, connected to those they love and the communities they live in.
Love, hope and understanding are crucial elements of the role carers provide. The recent Panorama programme on adult social care demonstrated this in a very moving way – much more eloquently that anything I can write here.
Every year, more and more people take on unpaid or informal caring responsibilities. Their enormous contribution makes a huge difference, not only to the people they support but to the continued functioning of our health and social care system.
Putting a price on the priceless
If you wanted to put a figure on something intrinsically invaluable, then unpaid carers save the UK economy upwards of £132 billion a year – that’s enough budget to fund a second NHS. If every carer withdrew their labour (for want of a better word), our care and support services would simply grind to a halt.
Thankfully, we enjoy the benefit of their empathy, compassion and dedication, each and every day. The nature of their caring role means they have regular and frequent contact with health and care services.
Increasingly, their views – and those of the people they look after – are actively considered in care planning. It’s a welcome shift in emphasis that is arguably long overdue.
Carers Action Plan
That shift was also evident in June 2018, when the Department of Health and Social Care published the Carers Action Plan, setting out a cross-government programme of work to support carers over the next two years.
My adult social work colleagues and I were pleased to contribute to its development. Through the plan, the Department is seeking to improve social workers’ awareness - and identification - of carers.
On this point, Caroline Dinenage, our Minister for Care has also been celebrating Carers Week with speeches at Carers Today’s Health of the Nation: Think Autism event and the launch of the £5 million Carers Innovation Fund at Tower Hamlet’s Carers Centre.
In both cases, she has been promoting community outreach and innovation, projects reaching beyond statutory services to provide webs of care where ‘no one falls through the gaps.’ Social work is all about this holistic, multi-disciplinary approach.
RiPfA resources online
Last year, I highlighted our work to develop a suite of online resources for social work with carers with Research in Practice for Adults (RiPfA) Their site has received nearly 30,000 visitors since its launch in 2016, helping support social workers and other social care professionals improve how they identify, value and work with carers.
I continue to work with RiPfA, Principal Social Workers and the wider profession to support the widest possible use of these resources, push carers’ issues up the agenda nationally, and make the case for joined up support at local level.
I also continue to engage with the profession, especially through the practice leadership provided by the Principal Social Worker Networks (PSWN) in each local authority.
No let up in carer awareness
In this way, I’m helping to build on the opportunities presented by the Carers Action Plan and maintain the momentum generated by the PSWN led two days of action on carers in November last year.
Various services came together to discuss, inform and share information on carers and I will continue to work with the network to see how practice improvements are being sustained.
Meanwhile, we must all promote the vision and value of social work with carers and raise the quality of social work practice even further.
So, with all this in mind, please do take a look at RiPfA ‘s refreshed resources, available now on their website and discover what more you can do to care for the carers.