WITH the Care Act 2014 coming into force next month, The Standard has joined forces with Redditch charity Carers Careline to highlight the significant impact on those who devote their lives to others.
It is estimated there are almost 9,000 unpaid carers living in Redditch who are expected to benefit from the changes, with this being the first overhaul of the care statute in England for more than 60 years.
In the first of a series of features over the coming weeks, Connie Osborne looks at the vital work Carers Careline does and the help on offer.
Carers Careline was founded 27 years ago in 1988 by Geoff Dry, a development officer for Redditch Borough Council’s voluntary service.
One day a lady came into the office to enquire about respite care for her husband who had Alzheimer’s Disease and she was referred to social services in the hope of tapping into their existing daycare funds.
Not long after this, a man who provided full time care for his wife also needed help and wanted to be able to go out and play a round of golf now and again.
Those personal stories sparked Geoff to look deeper into the needs of carers in the area and wanted Redditch’s voluntary service to provide short periods of respite.
He approached Muriel Clarke – who subsequently became chair of Carers Careline – to set up the scheme and Carers Careline was born.
Age Concern provided an initial grant, while help was also provided from psychiatric nurses at Barnsley Hall and advice from district nursing services.
Volunteers were recruited and the service was formed on the basis it would allow carers to have up to three hours a week off to do something they wanted, whether it was a coffee with a friend or to get the food shopping in.
Carers Careline has now evolved into an organisation today which supports over 300 unpaid carers in Redditch.
A small team of part time staff work around the clock and are always aiming to increase the number of volunteers available either to act as trustees or to meet the demands of residents.
Volunteers are at the heart of the organisation, providing valuable time, free of charge, week after week to enhance the lives of those carers the organisation support enabling them to cope better for longer.
Carers Careline offers a range of services from group meetings, outings, training sessions and social events, as well as counselling, a bereavement service and a volunteer run telephone support service.
Between 10am and 12pm on Mondays to Thursdays a drop in service also provides a place for carers to visit the office at the Ecumenical Centre for assistance in making calls to agencies, form filling or for a chat and a drink with staff.
But with less resources available to social services and NHS departments, informal carers now have to bear a greater burden of care than previously.
The organisation is completely financially self-supporting and has to raise funds in order to continue the valuable support it gives to local residents through donations and grants.
In areas where there used to be home care services available to them, this is now often not the case, with the voluntary sector trying to fill in the gaps.
And the estimated value of the contribution made by carers in the UK is rising. It currently stands at £119billion per year, with £164million of that provided by unpaid carers in Redditch. Without them it would add to the already growing burden on social care.
The number of people who find themselves in the role of informal carers also continue to rise as more adults face the prospect of exchanging the role of caring for their children with that of caring for their partner.
The actual number of carers living in the borough is also estimated to be much higher than the 8,889 Census figures suggest, because many people do not class themselves as a carer, believing caring for a loved one is just part of their family duty.
And in a bid to move forward, the organisation is engaging more with the local community to implement new and diverse forms of fund-raising and schemes.
Carers Careline is there for the people of Redditch, working tirelessly to provide invaluable knowledge, signposting and support for carers and those they are caring for.
For more information visit www.carerscareline.co.uk, call 01527 66177, or pop into the Ecumenical Centre on Evesham Walk.