LAST week was Carers Week. Ever since I became an MP, I have wanted to support Carers Week and highlight the magnificent – and very often unsung work that umpteen people do for their friends and family.
It is estimated that one in ten people living in this country – that’s a total of six million people – are carers.
The work that they do in helping a loved one, work that might otherwise be the responsibility of social care or the NHS, is estimated to save this country £112 billion each and every year. That is more than the annual spend on the National Health Service.
Hartlepool is a particularly special case. A big part of the Hartlepool character is to care for your loved ones.
It is just seen as being a good daughter or grandson or neighbour.
It is also the Hartlepool way that people who do this, providing a huge range of care from popping in for a cup of tea or getting somebody the paper to, let’s be frank, dealing with very personal hygiene matters, don’t want special treatment or being singled out.
I do, however, think they deserve huge praise and recognition. Carers Week is a good way to do this.
Hartlepool Carers have been up and running for almost 20 years now.
They were established by carers from the town who knew of the limited range of help and support available.
Since that time, they have expanded and now occupy premises in Lowthian Road (although, given the front door is in York Road, I’ll continue to think of it as in York Road) where they can offer information and advice on local services, benefits and financial matters.
They can also provide counselling and emotional support as well as complementary therapies like massage.
On a practical level, they provide help with looking for employment, education and training opportunities.
This is particularly important for young carers. I’ve mentioned before the plight of young carers, whose education often suffer because they are doing the right thing and looking after a sick mam, dad or nana.
The fact that their future life chances are undermined because they are being a good son or daughter truly breaks my heart and that is why I really support the dedicated young carers team at Hartlepool Carers providing a Think Family support package.
On Friday, I had a surgery at Hartlepool Carers dedicated to issues that matter to carers.
It is very clear, even from the event that I did a year ago, that changes to things like the Bedroom Tax are particularly hitting carers hard.
A couple may no longer share a bedroom because of illness and with one partner caring for the other, the spare bedroom often becomes the carer’s bedroom.
The Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, said that carers might not be affected by the Government’s Bedroom Tax, but it was pretty clear speaking to carers on Friday that they are.
I promised one lady I would write to David Cameron about this particular issue.
I’ve said this before, but it is really important. For anybody who is a carer, I would say: you are not on your own. Don’t do this job in silence.
Help, support and advice is available if you want it. Please contact Hartlepool Carers in York/Lowthian Road on 283095 if you need to.
You’re not imposing or admitting failing – you’re providing an invaluable service to your loved one and, in those circumstances, I think you deserve a little care, too.