This week is National Carers Week, when we remember those people who dedicate some, or indeed all, of their life to looking after somebody close to them.
This might be an elderly relative, partner or a child with a disability.
Increasingly, however, it might be a child looking after an adult. Or it might be an elderly parent looking after an adult child who has learning difficulties.
Now officers from Cheshire West & Chester Council are working together with local carers’ charities to provide more support to these selfless people.
And the numbers of people we are talking about are stark.
In Cheshire West & Chester, local support groups know of 4,200 carers. However, they believe that there are more like 35,000 in total. This is based on census information.
There is such a big discrepancy for several reasons.
In the case of children caring for parents, the parents might worry that their children will be taken away from them if “the authorities” know that their children have caring responsibilities which are perhaps affecting the child’s education. This isn’t the case – but there is a Cheshire Young Carers group that provides support and even respite breaks for children living in these circumstances.
Elderly married couples will look after each other because that is what they do, perhaps oblivious of the support that is available.
Indeed, I am told that the number of full-time carers in their 80’s is increasing.
It’s easy to forget the contribution that carers make. It is easy to take for granted the invisible army who, through looking after their sick, elderly or disabled family members, save our country an estimated £134 billion a year.
And they do it because that is what we would all do: look after our family members because they are our loved ones and they need our support.
The council and local charities are trying to give support to carers. For example, there are groups that meet at the Mulberry Centre on Sealand Road every couple of weeks. They provide a safe place for people to meet other people with similar circumstances. They can talk through problems together, and find common solutions to common problems.
So if you are a carer, or if you have a friend or family member who is, when life can sometimes feel too much, help is at hand. The Council has set up a helpline for carers, which is 0800 085 0307. They will point you in the direction of charities, local groups or even council departments which are there to support you, to make life just a little bit easier.
And they are waiting for your call.