Devon carers number 130,000+

More than 130,000 people in Devon are now carers, a figure that’s grown because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Daniel Clark, local democracy reporter www.radioexe.co.uk

But only 21,000 of them – roughly only one in every six – are said to be accessing vital information and support.

Next week is Carers Week, and Devon County Council, NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Devon Carers are shining a light on it to encourage people who are carers for friends and family to recognise themselves as unpaid carers, and to come forward for help.

Devon Carers, which is commissioned by Devon County Council and NHS Devon, provides information, advice and support for people who care for others, whether they need help because they are ill, frail, disabled or have a mental health or a substance misuse problem and can’t manage independently without support.

Cllr James McInnes, Devon County Council’s cabinet member for adult care and health services, said: “Many people won’t even think of themselves as carers because the person they are looking after is a relative, but caring can bring a whole host of responsibilities and worries and which can often have a real impact on a carer’s health and wellbeing.”

Vera Tooke didn’t think she was a carer because Graham, who she cares for, is her husband.  He has Parkinson’s disease and Lewy-Body dementia. “There are people who need a little bit of help and those who need more,” she said.  “Looking after someone else is difficult, but I didn’t see myself as a ‘carer’.  The label didn’t feel right. I was coping with the physical aspects of looking after my husband, but dementia is something else. I felt I couldn’t leave Graham to do the things I needed to do. I felt guilty and worried when I did. He was very much against anyone else helping him, even family.

“I then admitted to myself that I was a carer and I contacted Devon Carers for a carer’s assessment. They were brilliant. A carers assessment has nothing to do with judging how you are functioning as a carer, it looks at your own needs as the carer.”

Vera is one of thousands of people across Devon working around the clock to help and care for relatives and friends who couldn’t manage on their own.

But while the coronavirus pandemic has meant even more people in Devon taking on caring responsibilities, Devon Carers saw a 50 per cent reduction in the number of people approaching them for support between April and June last year.

Support is available for adult carers at devoncarers.org.uk/support or support for young carers is available at https://www.westbank.org.uk/Pages/Category/young-carers or call 03456 434 435.