“Issues which face mental health carers often forgotten”

According to new research for Carers Week, which begins today, more than 75% of unpaid carers in Wales are worried about cuts to services with almost half not knowing how they will cope “as the axe falls on some of the vital support they rely on”.

The cuts to services, according to researchers for Carers Week, “compound the financial sacrifice people make when they start looking after someone who is ill, frail or disabled. Three quarters of those surveyed say they are worse off financially since taking on their caring responsibilities.

“When people are forced onto benefits they find that Carer’s Allowance is the lowest benefit of its kind. Carers Week research shows that two thirds of carers are surprised at how little help they get from the government.”

The theme of this year’s campaign, which lasts until June 19th, is ‘The True Face of Carers’. Organisers are calling for greater recognition and support for “the diverse and often unexpected range of people who give up their money, time and health to look after somebody else”.

Jackie James, National Carers Lead of the Welsh mental health charity, Hafal, said: “The issues which face mental health carers are quite often forgotten by people who look at carers issues generally. For example, carers of people with a serious mental illness have to deal with issues like stigma and discrimination.

“Coincidentally, on the day Carers Week is being launched, Hafal, in collaboration with Gofal and Mind Cymru, has launched a campaign called ‘Time to Change Wales’ which aims to challenge the stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health problems.”

Jackie, a mental health carer herself, added: “The Carers Strategies (Wales) Measure, which received Royal Approval last year, is very important for carers in Wales as it affords new rights. Hafal will shortly be submitting a response on the Measure’s Code of Practice Guidance. It’s crucial that it is fit for purpose.”

Hafal provides a variety of services for carers of people with a mental illness across Wales. “All Hafal’s services stem from our unique Recovery Programme,” says Jackie, “which empowers clients to make a step-by-step recovery plan, to look at all aspects of their life and set goals, and to take control of their lives.

“Carers are the key supporters of the people they care for as they work towards recovery. It is incredibly important that carers are included in care planning. At the moment they are excluded from the process which is not right because carers know more about the cared-for than anybody else; they have the expertise.”

Carers Week 2011 has more than 8,000 events and activities taking place across the country to ensure that all carers know they are not alone. The campaign is being supported by Dame Judi Dench, Sir David Jason OBE, Jack Charlton OBE, Martin Lewis and Angela Rippon, all of whom have experience of caring.

For more information on Carers Week please visit: http://carersweek.org/

For information on Hafal’s work with carers please visit: http://www.hafal.org/hafal/pdf/Support%20for%20carers%20%20B%20Aug10.pdf

For information on “Time to Change” please visit: http://www.mentalhealthwales.net/mhw/news.php?id=940