An unpaid carer is a family member or friend who supports a loved one or a neighbour or family member who are not able to live in the community independently.
North East Wales Carers Information Service (NEWCIS) is largest provider of carer services in Wales. We carry out carer assessments on behalf of local authorities and healthcare in the Denbighshire, Flintshire and Wrexham areas. We also deliver information and one to one support training, counselling and peer support groups for unpaid carers. We have contact with fifteen and a half thousand carers.
When the first lockdown happened last year, for many carers their support networks of family or friends disappeared, in some cases local authority were unable to deliver services into their homes. Respite centres closed and carers may not have been able to leave their loved one to go to the shops. They were suddenly isolated and alone. What we are hearing from our carers is isolation has been crippling.
When our Wellbeing Officers carry out carers assessments (A ‘What Matters’ conversation) we usually offer lots of lovely things like short breaks. We run a project called Bridging the Gap, which provides unpaid carers with flexible respite from their caring role. For example a couple of hours every fortnight for a coffee with friends, a haircut, to go swimming or even a few days away to visit friends or family.
During Covid-19 one of things we did was provide Keep Busy boxes, to offer alternative respite at home. Our charity shops were closed, so we used the stock and tailored the boxes based on the carers or those being cared fors interests.
If somebody is caring for someone 24/7, they haven’t slept and they have no one to help a keep busy box might provide them with a break from their caring role at home. For a couple who used to play drafts together – the most significant change for them was a game of drafts In their keep busy box meant they were able to enjoy spending time together each afternoon
“I wasn’t having time away from my husband, but I loved spending time with him”Unpaid carer
Another example was a person being cared for who was a retired engineer, he was provided with a clock to dismantle and his carer was able to go into another room for a couple of hours. We’ve sent out books, jigsaws, very simple things that our carers tell us have actually nurtured relationships being re-formed.
Carers caring at home are not often able to work or they may have been furloughed and therefore have struggled financially during the pandemic. Some found themselves at home 24/7 and having to feed the family. The supply of food for those who lived in rural areas with reduced public transport and no internet access was also a real issue.
Between April and August 2020 we delivered 2,400 ‘Keep Well’ fresh food boxes with bread, eggs, milk and fruit and vegetables. We wanted to enhance the existing local government offer which was mostly tinned and packaged items.
You can find out more about the NEWCIS by visiting their website.