The Social Care News blog is back in business after the General Election hiatus. To mark this resumption, who better to kick things off than occasional contributor and friend of the blog, Fatima Khan-Shah, Co-Founder of the Kirklees Carers Charter and social enterprise Investors in Carers. With summer holidays looming, she offers timely consideration of why time out for carers and their families is easier said than done - and why, sometimes, it's younger carers who miss out the most…
Holidays are always a time that I dread as a carer; this is for various reasons which only another carer could understand. It’s a time of unpredictability. This always heightens my anxiety levels as I know that I will have to deal with people who are not always familiar with the needs of the person I care for.
The fact is a carer is never on holiday – we’re on call, 24/7 - so although you are on leave from work or school you are not actually getting a rest – you’re just giving everyone else one. My daughter and son are nine and four respectively.
At school, and at home, they talk about the holidays. It always saddens me that it’s different for us because it depends on the status quo at home.
As the child of sandwich carers, my daughter helps with care; and yet she would not define herself as a young carer. Her challenges go beyond the usual responsibilities such as providing physical care, it affects her personal freedom and psychological wellbeing too.
She can’t go out if her parents do not have care cover at home, she feels it when her parents are stressed due to their caring responsibilities, she witnesses situations when the grandmother she adores stops breathing, paramedics arrive at 2.00am and yet she still has to go to school the next day.
This life is something she has always known, it has made her strong, responsible and resilient; however, it has made her really mature compared to most nine-year olds which makes it hard for her to make friends; when she needs them more than most. Sadly, she isn’t alone.
The Carers Charter was born out of a desire to make change happen and with Kirklees Health and Wellbeing Plan recognising the value of Carers and Investors in Carers as partners in the process this will soon become a reality.
We are working with Kirklees council to find ways to formally recognise and support our young carers. We are also working together to recognise the skills these young carers develop and encourage them to put those skills back into careers in health and social care. A crucial part of the partnership has been the public health team using their intelligence to understand more about the experience of young carers. You can read more about this here.
We have also started to look towards working on a regional level - in collaboration with the West Yorkshire and Harrogate Sustainability Transformation Partnership (STP) and NHS England; exploring ways in which we can support the existing and future workforce who balance caring responsibilities; people just like me (and perhaps you, after all one in six of us will care for someone in our lifetime).
This will be in addition to exploring ways to develop a standard for services that all organisations will work towards to support carers in a much more holistic way. It’s an exciting time to live in West Yorkshire and Harrogate - watch this space!