From the heart and from the head
AUTHOR:
  • Jennie Musgrove
  • 23.09.16
  • 00:00 GMT
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‘What the next new National Carers Strategy will mean for older carers’  Dame Philippa, a West Sussex carer herself helping lead discussion!

Dame Philippa Russell is the formal Patron of Carers Support West Sussex and most importantly she is a West Sussex carer herself concerned with caring for her son and her husband. Who better than to contribute her own experience of care and support services?   She is an impressive example of a busy working carer and it struck me today that this is the case for so many of our own staff at Carers Support.  A high percentage are working carers setting an example themselves in their own commitment to work to help other carers. As an employer we always try to be as carer-friendly as we possibly can and this is a concern that our Board of Trustees particularly recognises and values.

Dame Philippa is the Vice President of Carers UK and was previously Chair of the National Standing Commission for Carers. She is also a Trustee of the South East Forum on Ageing. I know that the Forum feels that so far older carers have not had the attention needed within wider debate.

Our charity is so fortunate to have such an eminent figurehead who is so closely in touch with the needs of carers, not only carers from the county we serve but from Dame Philippa hearing the experiences of carers from across the country. Using this personal knowledge and understanding she is influential in shaping the next National Carers Strategy being written at the moment.

We had a national Action Plan for 2014-16 which followed the updated National Strategy of 2010. And more recently The Care Act and Children and Families Act 2014 have set out significant improvements for assessing and supporting carers of all ages. The extension of the right to request flexible working to all employees introduced from 30 June 2014 is also helping carers who wish to stay in paid employment alongside caring responsibilities. How important this can be to carers: for self-esteem, for wellbeing, for finances and for equity. It is also vital for choice and for carers to have a life alongside their caring role.

So this next Government Strategy will recognise that all of us are likely to become carers at some point in our lives and that caring is increasingly a core part of family life.  The ambition is that it will articulate a vision of a society that recognises, values and supports carers and how we will work to achieve this. Locally, here in West Sussex, we are trying hard to promote the concept of building carer friendly communities.

On this note I have been invited to go today to a Department of Health meeting to talk about implications of the new Strategy for older carers and am keen to contribute. We will cover Care and Support, Housing, Employment and Digital Inclusion. Like so many of our own staff I have personal experience of these areas which impact on carers’ lives although as yet, I have not quite tipped over into the minimum age to fit into the ‘older’ age bracket.

Increasingly more retirement housing and supported housing schemes target their marketing at the over 55s. This is positive in enabling carers and the people they are caring for to plan ahead with choice in making busy lives easier. Taking away some of the responsibility which comes with maintaining houses and gardens can ease the strain and exhaustion of busy carer’s lives.Thinking about housing solutions can help with future care planning and enable families to enjoy quality time without so much worry. What a difference an accessible shower and WC can make to someone’s independence and to the carer’s role, and how lovely for someone with a mobility problem or who uses a wheelchair to be able to enjoy an accessible garden rather than have to worry about the gardening. I believe that having choice makes such a difference. As a service provider it is our responsibility to help carers think about these lifestyle choices and to make information available. This is something I want our organisation to get even better at.

When I was involved in housing and care home developments I got great pleasure from seeing people use their mobility buggies. We ensured people could get about everywhere, park up and at the end of the day plug in easily and comfortably with the right facilities and space to do so. There is so much which can be done in terms of design which is low cost at the building stage but is high impact on quality of people’s lives. I love seeing a carer enjoying a day out with the person they care for, motoring along with ease and able to get everywhere.

To finish, as far as ‘Digital Inclusion’ goes, in West Sussex service providers are all committed to supporting independence of carers through a light touch approach that offers access to all. With rising life expectancy and increasing number of older and frail people with long-term limiting health conditions, Carers Support West Sussex is involved in putting together the West Sussex plan.

We want to offer both the widest range of assistive technologies more effectively and work with health and social care partners to support the offer of a range of technology-enabled care (TEC) applications. With rapid advances in technology and particularly sensors, mobile devices are available that can be worn and which can detect and predict changes quickly and reliably. This can only help with self-care, make care situations safer and help carers in a practical way, giving reassurance and peace of mind. More on this to follow. Hopefully Carers Support West Sussex can do more to promote carer-friendly solutions in the future.

Jennie

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