Unpaid carers deserve the city's thanks - Carers Leeds chief executive Val Hewison

Making a difference to the lives of unpaid carers in our city has become a passion, writes Carers Leeds chief executive Val Hewison.
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They are the people who support, care for and care about family and friends who cannot manage without help because of mental or physical ill health, disability, old age or addiction.

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Caring can bring huge joy, satisfaction, rewards. It also brings many challenges, worries and anxieties. It can be tough too and this year, as people across the country are facing new challenges as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, unpaid carers are playing a huge role in supporting Leeds health and social care system.

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They are the glue that has kept and continues to keep many families safe, well, surviving. Many carers have taken on many more caring responsibilities and the subsequent worry for family and friends who have needed that support. But do we ask if the carer needs support?

Our incredible team of staff at Carers Leeds have been asking just that.

It is right to give applause and deep gratitude to frontline workers but I believe we should be saying a huge thank you to our city’s unpaid carers too.

We don’t see them much. We don’t hear from them much. It could be you. It is me. Is it your neighbour, the assistant in the local supermarket, or the driver of the delivery van?

Val Hewison is chief executive of Carers Leeds. Picture: Simon HulmeVal Hewison is chief executive of Carers Leeds. Picture: Simon Hulme
Val Hewison is chief executive of Carers Leeds. Picture: Simon Hulme
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We don’t wear a uniform. We don’t sport a badge. We are hidden – but not in wardrobes or cupboards under the stairs. We are here, but just busy getting on with getting on.

In caring for family and friends you sort of learn to accept what is dealt to you, but the way I’ve seen carers rise to the challenges of lockdown is remarkable and we must make sure we don’t leave any one behind who needs support. Never more than now has access to good, relevant information and support been more vital.

So this is also a huge thank you to the amazing team of staff at Carers Leeds who have gone over and above anything anyone could have expected to ensure we keep our service going. Maybe not business as usual, but business just the same. They are quite simply the best.

Also in news: Lord Mayor calls for Leeds to unite in fight for Black Lives Matter equality

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They have worked so hard throughout this crisis to make sure no carer is forgotten during lockdown. They have adapted the way they support carers to make sure our services work for each person. Zooming and socially distanced support visits, one-to-one calls using all technology available, checking in calls, supporting young and old carers, supporting bereaved carers too – and all from their own front rooms, bedroom, garages and cupboards under the stairs. Thank you!

This Carers Week (June 8-14), Carers Leeds will be sharing carer experiences on social media to show the world what life is like for carers during lockdown, with a theme of make caring visible. I strongly believe that carers need to be recognised for the difficulties they are experiencing, respected for all they are doing, and provided with information, support and understanding.

We’re also running a number of events online such as wellbeing sessions, fun quizzes and Zumba sessions. Take a look at the Carers Leeds website to take part or for more details.

The wonderful Carers Leeds team is there for you.

Carers Week raises awareness of caring, highlights the challenges unpaid carers face and recognises the contribution they make. It also helps people who do not think of themselves as having caring responsibilities to identify as carers and access much-needed support. Call Carers Leeds on 0113 380 4300.

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Thank you

Laura Collins