From the start of the crisis, all face-to-face meetings with carers and all carer group activity had to stop to comply with government rules and to try to keep everyone safe. Our team at the Birmingham Carers Hub had to quickly move from working in the office at Age Concern Birmingham where we normally run drop-in and outreach appointments from, to enabling the team to work from their homes. We want to pay tribute to our staff team for their commitment in continuing the service reasonably seamlessly and also our thanks to the wider Age Concern team and to colleagues at Forward Carers and Ageing Better in Birmingham for their support.
We have seen an increase in innovative ways to provide advice and support to carers in Birmingham. Carers can still register with us by calling 0333 006 9711 or emailing the team on and we continue to carry out statutory carer assessments over the telephone, as well as giving advice on things like welfare benefits. The team are also pro-actively contacting registered carers to offer safe and well checks and to tell people about how to apply for a free Carers Card which gives lots of discounts and benefits.
Both our Carers Hub advice team and our Ageing Better advisors have worked closely with Age Concern Birmingham and with the Ageing Better team at Birmingham Voluntary Service Council (BVSC) to provide advice and support to older carers and older people generally, especially through the ACB helpline on 0121 362 3650.
Our Ageing Better advisors have also been contacting the carer groups that they support to offer advice on how their members can be supported remotely. Some groups have applied to the Ageing Better Transition Fund to be able to continue this support through the pandemic. Our Ageing Better advisors can be contacted on on 0785 257 7251.
The theme of this year's national Carer's Week is 'Making Carers Visible' and to celebrate this theme the lead organisation of our carers partnership, Forward Carers, have launched a mission to make Birmingham a 'Carer Friendly City'.
The Carer Friendly Brum mission was launched on Monday 8th June with a live-on-Facebook event including carers and partner organisations talking about their experiences and commitment to making Birmingham a carer friendly city.
Some carers spoke about their sense of isolation and feelings of being invisible and not being recognised not only during the past months but also before COVID-19, in their day-to-day life. They also spoke of the pressures of juggling other family, household and sometimes employment responsibilities with their caring role.
Participants talked about the need for services, businesses and employers to become more carer friendly in their policies and practices. All of this reflects the feedback which we get from the Carers Hub and our Ageing Better team.
One carer recently said:
To be honest the COVID-19 lockdown isn't too different for many carers because our lives are restricted a lot anyway. We need to have respite and support with our wellbeing. The main difference is that at the moment it has become even more difficult to get out to do things like shopping.Carer in Birmiingham
It's great that the NHS and care home staff have been recognised but I feel a bit forgotten as an unpaid carer. We are still here, and with new worries of what happens if yourself, or your cared for, or someone else in the family tests positive for the virus? That's a very big concern so it's good to have people who support us.
Forward Carers CEO Simon Fenton said:
"We estimate there are over 600,000 people across the West Midlands who are in a caring role. Often people do not even realise that the support that they give to a family member or friend means that they are a carer. Every year around 40,000 people in Birmingham become a carer, a figure that will have increased because of the effects of COVID-19. Without carers, the NHS would collapse and we have a duty to support carers. As a proud Brummie, I want Birmingham to become the first Carer Friendly City."
Are you looking after a loved one, neighbour, friend or relative? Find out about the Carers Card and make an application by visiting: https://forwardcarers.org.uk/discounts-and-benefits/carers-card/
To register as a carer visit https://forwardcarers.org.uk/local-services/carer-register-form/
To find out what Forward Carers has planned for Carers Week, visit: https://forwardcarers.org.uk/our-plans-for-carers-week/