August 20, 2014 9.00 am This story is over 117 months old

We need more support for the nation’s carers

Unsung heroes: “I would like to see the lives of our nation’s carers improved,” writes David Harding-Price.

Carers are often the unsung heroes of our society. They do not seek praise or thanks to do a role that is unpaid and demanding, often both physically and mentally.

It is 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It is a role derived from love and the human nature to protect and look after. But these unsung heroes deserve the nation’s support more than they currently receive.

Caring for a loved one will never be easy; whether it is looking after a child with a disability, an elderly relative with Alzheimer’s, a partner with an illness or a child looking after a parent whilst trying to fit in school work; all of these have their own unique demands.

Every one of the nation’s estimated 6.4 million carers has a tremendously difficult job and often they do it alone.

Can you imagine how much pressure our NHS and Social Care system would be under if it was not for these people? Estimates on just the monetary values in 2011 put carers saving the NHS around £119 billion a year (roughly £13.6 million an hour). If this network was to collapse, it would have devastating consequences for our NHS and our national government.

I would like to see the lives of our nation’s carers improved.

First, the provision of respite care needs to be improved to allow carers to take well deserved breaks, whether that is for a day, a weekend or a week. They need to be safe in the knowledge that their loved ones are safe and well-looked after.

We also need to ensure that carers who are able to work part-time are not unfairly penalised with losing part or all of their allowance, thus leaving them in a worse position than before.

There also needs to be measures to improve flexible working hours for carers and a system to ensure they are in full knowledge of their rights and what they are entitled to.

We also need to identify those who do care. Many carers are simply unknown and do not ask for anything. Many often struggle alone and for some it can become too much. It is important that all carers do receive support that require and when they need it.

I salute all those who have cared for a loved one at home. It is not a job, not a career; being a carer is something completely different. They are all true heroes.

David is a retired NHS nurse, but is currently the Royal College of Nursing’s Council Member for the East Midlands and is Honorary Treasurer of the RCN. David was also a Lib Dem MP candidate for Lincoln in the past. He has two grown up children and enjoys photography and swimming in his spare time.