[UPDATE 25 Nov 2016] Today is Carers Rights Day, an annual day of awareness raising led by Carers UK, which not only encourages those in caring roles to seek help for themselves and their loved ones, but also challenges organisations, services and volunteers to identify and reach out to people who may not even realise that support exists.
As social workers, it is part of our role to be aware of the wider web of care and to facilitate positive connections whilst being mindful of a person's needs, aspirations and human rights. Earlier this summer, I blogged in support of Carers Week. It's themes are just as relevant now as they were then - as indeed are the resources I signposted at the time for social workers working with carers. I am pleased to share this blog again on this important day.
This blog was first published 6 June 2016
This year’s Carers Week will be a very good week for carers, social workers and the power of community. More than that, as our colleagues over at Research in Practice for Adults (RiPfA) are already demonstrating, these seven days of activity will prove once again why carers’ voices are vital to any enterprise seeking to improve carers' wellbeing and those they support.
It’s no surprise that RiPfA have chosen this week to launch a new suite of resources for social workers working with carers. These materials have been developed with carers themselves and, as you’ll discover in Research and Development Manager Lisa Smith’s blog over at Social Care News, the experience has been a rewarding one…
One [carer] told us they felt their involvement in developing the resources had had a very positive effect on their caring role. Having the opportunity to speak, be heard and have their voice embedded in a resource seems to have had a positive impact.
The resources themselves cover top tips for practice, critical reflection and action planning. These materials join existing case studies and other practical guides including how to work with families where children or young adults have caring responsibilities within the home.
What is becoming increasingly clear, as the nation’s population ages and diversifies, is that caring is already an intrinsic part of family and community life. It is not a passing trend! It is imperative that as social workers we recognise the value of caring and the challenges it places on friends and family members. Many may not have expected to be in a caring situation so early or to such an overwhelming degree (e.g. caring for multiple relatives). Our empathy, understanding and ability to work alongside carers to support them are qualities needed now more than ever.
We also need to look outside domestic settings to the communities where individuals and families live. This is the big theme of Carers Week 2016 as the organisers take a leaf out of The Alzheimer’s Society book of social action and encourage local businesses and charities to build ‘carer friendly communities’.
Social workers need to be involved in community outreach. We are there to help identify, nurture and encourage local support networks and make sure the people we’re helping can access them. This outreach includes statutory health and care services as well as more informal neighbourhood arrangements. Together, they can help combat those feelings of isolation and lack of support many carers experience.
It’s important that we work together to consider what more we can do for carers now and in the future. Once again, I urge you to share your views and concerns with the Department of Health’s Carers Strategy call for evidence and to also consider how RiPfAs resources may inform our work and the way we co-develop solutions for people.
Making sure carers feel valued and supported by those around them is a key component of good practice. In this regard, carer friendly communities provide a great opportunity for social workers to encourage supportive local networks, further empowered by RiPfA’s resources. I hope we see the fruits of this collaboration very soon and that we hear from carers that social work practice really is making a difference to their lives!