Once seen as a personal and private matter in family life, unpaid caregiving has become one of the most important social and economic policy issues worldwide. Without voluntary carers health and social care systems globally would collapse. 

Did you know that 3 in 5 people in the UK will become carers at some point in their lives? And carers save the economy £132billion every year? That’s more than the annual budget for the NHS!

In developing countries, there is minimal support and understanding of the economic, physical and psychological strains that caregivers face. This then means carers can experience poverty and isolation. 

Ruth – Operations Manger, Carers Worldwide
Hannah – Head of Fundraising and Engagement, Caring Together

whatCharity wishes to raise awareness of unpaid caregiving as a cause that we believe is extremely worthy of both individual and corporate support. We interviewed Ruth Patil from Carers Worldwide and Hannah Clay from Caring Together to learn more about the cause and the similar and different aspects of their work in the UK and developing counties. 

You both represent a charity focusing on improving the lives of carers. Carers Worldwide support carers in India, Nepal and Bangladesh, and Caring Together in the UK. Could you define what it mean to be a carer and some implications of this unpaid work which demands lots of dedication?  

Ruth – Carers Worldwide: A carer is anyone who cares, unpaid, for a family member or friend, who due to illness, old age, disability, mental health needs or addiction, cannot cope without that support. A carer can be of any age and from any walk of life.

Caring can be very rewarding and has many positive aspects. Most carers cherish their caring role and would not give it up. However, caring can impact on many areas of a carers life – social, physical, emotional, economic – and so it is critical that carers receive external support. They need someone to talk to, opportunities for respite and options for continuing to work or study. In many developing countries, there is an assumption that a female member will take on care, and this leaves many women isolated and invisible. In a time when the extended family is breaking down, there are no longer options available to share care and many families struggle to continue to care and to keep their families above the poverty line

carer support

Hannah – Caring Together: Anyone can be a carer – a five year old boy helping his mother with mental health issues, a 17 year old girl looking after her siblings with physical disabilities or a 80 year old man looking after his wife who has dementia..  There are 178,000 carers across Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and Norfolk alone and this is projected to rise to 264,000 by the year 2030. 

68% of young carers are bullied in school and many have their own physical and mental health problems. The impact that caring has on a young carers’ future opportunities is vast, with those aged between 16 and 18 twice as likely not to be in education, employment or training. 

We know that caring can have a negative impact on the physical and mental health and wellbeing of carers. Nearly three quarters of carers report mental health issues and two thirds say that they have poor physical health because of their caring role.

How does your charity work with carers? What kind of activities you provide?

Ruth – Carers Worldwide: Carers Worldwide draws attention to the needs of unpaid family carers amongst local organisations, NGOS, international NGOs and Governments.

We work to enable these organisations to include carers in their existing programmes and to initiate carer-specific activities that will meet the needs of carers at all levels – emotional, physical and economic. We implement a range of grassroots projects across India, Nepal and Bangladesh

Carers Worldwide charity

We work strategically, serving as a catalyst bringing systemic change in the work of government and charities in the developing worked. We also facilitate the provision of support for individual carers and their families. We achieve all this by creating effective partnerships and distributing our model of systemic change through those organisations. More of our work can be found on whatCharity: https://whatcharity.com/charity/carers-worldwide/our-impact

Hannah – Caring Together: Caring Together is a regional charity who provide information, run services in local communities and campaign so that cares have choices. We help e.g. through a dedicated helpline, we support carers to navigate the system. We  give carers the opportunity to take a break from their caring role, either by providing professional homecare or the chance to come along to one of our family carers’ hubs in their local community. Also, we raise awareness of the issues faced by carers and promote good practice around identification and support of carers.

More of our work can be found on whatCharity: https://whatcharity.com/charity/west-anglia-crossroads-caring-for-carers

What is the impact of your work? How do you change the lives of carers and what impact does it have to society as a whole?

Ruth – Carers WorldwideOur work directly impacts the carer, the person for whom they are caring and the family unit as a whole. Since 2012 when we started, we have impacted the lives of almost 60,000 people.

Through the support we facilitate, the carer has peer support, feels emotionally supported, has improved health and wellbeing and in many cases can earn an income from home or even return to work. In the case of child carers, they are supported to return to school and have their caring responsibilities reduced.

We are also we are building capacity in the countries where we work and leaving a legacy of increased understanding of the needs of carers as well as the technical ability to develop support services for carers and their families.Find out more here.

Hannah – Caring TogetherIn a nutshell, we provide carers with choices. As a result, the 12,000 carers that we work with locally every year have an improved quality of life, increased resilience and feel more able to cope in their caring role. We bring carers together – together with information and advice, together with services that help and together with each other. Through this approach, carers are recognised, valued and supported and feel less lonely and isolated. We can bring ‘normality’ back to the lives of carers and their families, who many times miss out experiences very normal to other families. 

Carer Support

Why should a corporation fund or volunteer with a carer organisation? What opportunities do you offer for collaboration?

Ruth – Carers WorldwideIn our lives, at some point, each one of us will either be a carer or cared for or both. Supporting organisations like Carers Worldwide will therefore enable corporations to have a significant impact on the lives of many and will demonstrate their commitment to a strong, cohesive and caring society.

We can offer opportunities to corporates to provide technical support to our UK staff and in-country partners in areas such as financial management, human resources, marketing and communications, legal advice. We can also offer opportunities to take part in fundraising activities. We are a small, close knit team and pride ourselves on building strong personal connections with everyone who supports us. We have very few overheads with 98.5% of our expenditure being on charitable activities, so corporates can be assured that their support will directly impact carers and their families.

Hannah – Caring Together: Carer support is a hidden issue, but one that impacts us all. So supporting the cause is actually supporting the employees of your company and their families. By collaborating with a carer charity, organisations have the opportunity, not just to get involved in charitable activities in the traditional sense, such as volunteering at a young carer group, or becoming a listening ear, but to work together to raise awareness of carer issues and employer best practice. This can be both within their own organisations and in their wider business network. Support will not only directly benefit the charity and the carers it works with, but will identify carers within their own organisation and help them to find the help that they need.

Carer support

What is the one resource your charity currently needs the most and why?

Ruth – Carers Worldwide: The single resource we need the most at the moment is individual and corporate supporters who’d help us in various ways and  who would “fly the flag” for all that we do, encourage their friends and families to also support us and together work towards a world where the needs of all carers are recognised and supported.

Hannah – Caring TogetherAt this point in our history, when the number of carers in our local communities is growing so fast, we want to do all that we can to support carers of all ages. We are currently undertaking a digital transformation. Improved ways of working with the people that we support, in a way that best fits them, will allow us to reach even more carers. We are currently seeking a trustee with specific knowledge and experience within the world of digital change to help us to build these foundations.