The research, which surveyed 10,751 unpaid carers, finds that 27% of unpaid carers have bad or very bad mental health, with 84% having continuous low moods, 82% feelings of hopelessness, 71% feelings of tearfulness. Despite many feeling they are at breaking point, 73% of such carers are continuing to provide care. Carers UK is asking the Equality and Human Rights Commission to initiate an inquiry into unpaid carers’ ability to access health services in England.
Our Director of Nursing, David Wilmott, has responded to the research. He said:
“We put service users at the heart of what we do but we also understand that families and carers need to be given consideration too for the significant contribution they make to their loved ones. Unpaid carers are estimated to save the UK £530 million every year in the care they provide, yet are more than twice as likely to suffer from poor health compared to people without caring responsibilities.
Carers of our service users play a vital role in enabling us to achieve our purpose of making a positive difference to the individuals we care for through providing outstanding, safe, high-quality services.
That is why we take the mental and physical wellbeing of our carers extremely seriously and it is concerning to see the statistics published by Carers UK. We do recognise that caring for people can be an opportunity to experience the joy that being compassionate can bring, but it can also be a challenging and stressful
Across Cygnet we believe carers should be able to seek the support they need when they need it. That is why we facilitate feedback across carers’ councils, workshops and one-to-one conversations in all service areas. Through open and transparent dialogue, we alleviate concerns carers may have. By involving carers in discussions about the care, treatment and discharge of the patient or service user, we hope to avoid the mental health problems identified by the Carers UK research. Our Carers Network enables carers to access practical support and advice from Cygnet professionals on the management and support of people with a learning disability and behaviour that challenges, as well as on managing their own health and wellbeing.
Our regular carer events offer them a supportive, safe space to hear from likeminded people and other care givers to share advice and experiences. We host a virtual monthly drop in with myself and Corporate Carers Lead to hear from any of our carers, as well as having nominated staff across our services who take a lead on ensuring our carers have a point of contact.
I am proud that we have made a commitment to carers to recognise and value the support they provide. We want to work in partnership with carers and we want to make carers visible across our services. Carers are essential partners in the care of the people they support, so we involve them and support them wherever possible.
We have introduced initiatives including Cygnet’s first ever Carers Passport which is part of our commitment to involve carers in the “Triangle of Care” whereby carers, service users and staff work collaboratively to promote recovery and wellbeing. Carers and the essential role they play will be identified after they come into contact with services and we are training our staff in the most effective ways of engaging with carers. We also provide an advocacy service for carers across our health care services which will help the carer to express their views and makes sure their voice, opinion and experiences are properly heard.
We are also proud to have co-produced a Carers Handbook with some of carers to provide information about what happens when a loved one is admitted to one of our services.
Life under lockdown and the impact of the pandemic has meant there is greater demand for specialist mental health services, and many individuals face long waits to access the care they need. While they might be providing all sorts of help, a carer’s work can be exhausting and sometimes overwhelming. Through our partnership with carers, we want to make sure Cygnet is supporting carers more effectively within mental health services.
We fully appreciate the support carers offer to their loved ones, but we also understand when carers are so overwhelmed that caring has impacted on them to the extent they are unable to continue to care.
That’s why it’s important that organisation’s like Cygnet establish forums for people who care for adults with mental health and intellectual disabilities to share their experiences. There is estimated to be over 1.5 million carers in the UK who look after someone with a mental health problem, and we know from experience that they need help and support.”