If you're a carer in Birmingham, please click here
to find out more about support services near you.
A carer is someone of any age who provides unpaid support to family or friends who could not manage without this help. This could be caring for a relative, partner or friend who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental health or substance misuse problems. Anyone can become a carer; carers come from all walks of life, all cultures and can be of any age. Many feel they are doing what anyone else would in the same situation; looking after their mother, son, or best friend and just getting on with it.
Why do carers need support?
Carers experience many different caring situations. Despite differing caring roles, all carers share some basic needs. All carers also need services to be able to recognise the individual and changing needs throughout their caring journey. Carers often suffer ill-health due to their caring role. To care safely and maintain their own physical and mental health and well-being, carers need information, support, respect and recognition from the professionals with whom they are in contact. Improved support for the person being cared for can make the carer’s role more manageable.
Carers need support to be able to juggle their work and caring roles or to return to work if they have lost employment due to caring. Post-caring, carers may need support to rebuild a life of their own and reconnect with education, work or a social life. With an ageing population, the UK will need more care from families and friends in the future. This is an issue that will touch everyone’s life at some point. Carer support concerns everyone.
Talking about your worries and problems can be a very good way of releasing some of the stress that can build up when you’re a carer. Your family, friends and the medical and social work team can all listen to your concerns.
But sometimes it's best to talk to someone who knows exactly what you’re going through, because it's happening to them too. Other carers can offer kindness, sympathy, understanding and advice, and they can make you feel less isolated.
How to meet other carers
A number of carer’s organisations, such as Carers UK have local groups around the country. Some organisations for specific conditions, such as the MS Society and Macmillan Cancer Support, also have local groups. Macmillan supports more than 900 cancer self-help and support groups across the UK. If the person you care for has a condition or illness for which there's a supportive organisation, check if that organisation has a group in your area.
The facilities and services offered can vary from group to group. Your local centre can tell you what's available in your area. These are some of the services you could find at support centres near you:
regular meetings where members can get together, make new friends and share interests (these may be at a local centre or at members’ homes)
relaxing treats for carers, such as complementary therapies, for example, reflexology or massage (these may be subsidised)
training sessions with a back care nurse to help you look after the person you care for without damaging your back
Local councils also often support or run independent support groups. Contact Birmingham City Council’s social services department to get details of groups near you.
Support for black or ethnic minority carers
Many carers find that mixing socially with other people in a similar situation provides them with a welcome break from the stresses and strains of caring and stops them feeling isolated. This can be difficult for black and minority ethnic carers who may face cultural or language barriers when seeking help.
There are many groups that specialise in supporting the needs of black carers and carers from ethnic minorities (or carers who look after people who are black or from an ethnic minority). These groups can help you to find services that are better suited to your particular community, culture, diet or faith needs. They can support you, for example, by helping you to find resources in your language if you have difficulty with English.
Often these groups offer support in a local area where a specific cultural community is concentrated. However, the National Black Carers and Carers’ Workers Network brings many of these groups together on a national level, and it can sometimes put you in touch with a relevant organisation if there isn't one near you. The network is hosted by the Afiya Trust, which aims to reduce inequality in health and social care provision to black and minority ethnic groups. It also produces guidelines for people working with black and minority ethnic carers.
Carer organisations and local authorities employ specialist workers to serve the needs of particular communities within their local area. Crossroads Care has details of local support groups throughout the country as has Carers UK, which also provides interpreters on its free and confidential helpline. The number for the Carers UK helpline is 0808 808 7777. It is open on Wednesday and Thursday from 10am-12pm and 2pm-4pm.
If you find it hard to get out because you can’t leave the person you care for, online forums and discussion groups, such as Chill4Us, can be invaluable. They're a way of contacting other carers, making new friends, and finding and giving support to others in a similar situation. Many people find these online communities very helpful and supportive. There are many organisations that offer support to carers and can put you in touch with people in a similar situation, such as Contact a Family.