Richmond Carers Centre supports unpaid carers in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. We offer advice, information and emotional support to carers over the phone, by email and in person at the centre. This includes support navigating the social care system, signposting and referrals to other organisations and listening support. Carers who register with us can also access services such as carers’ workshops, regular group activities, short breaks and trips, counselling, complimentary therapies and our quarterly newsletter. Feedback from carers has shown that it is the emotional support they receive over a period of time and knowing that support is there that really helps.
An unpaid carer is ‘a person who, without payment, provides support to someone who would not manage without their help. This may be due to a physical or learning disability, mental health condition, long-term illness, addiction or substance misuse’. According to the 2011 Census, unpaid carers number approximately 15,000 in the borough of Richmond, of which over 1,600 are registered with Richmond Carers Centre. Anyone can become a carer, at any age, and often carers do not realise that they are even providing a caring role. People don’t choose to be a carer, it is usually a consequence of a change in circumstance. We support anyone affected by that circumstance, including wider family members, not just those people providing the bulk of support.
Things that might affect carers include:
- Deteriorating emotional health and wellbeing
- Deteriorating physical health and wellbeing
- Worsening medical conditions
- Social isolation
- Loss of a sense of identity
- Financial difficulties
- Difficulties concentrating at work/school
- Difficulties maintaining relationships
GP receptionists and pharmacy counter staff
GP and pharmacy staff are in a key position to help identify and signpost hidden carers. These are carers who may not access services at all during the time they are providing a caring role, or at least not until they reach a crisis point or develop a need for care themselves. This is because many carers do not understand what a carer is, or they do not identify with the term. The point these hidden carers come into contact with GP and pharmacy staff is a key mechanism by which hidden carers are identified and signposted to support, which can help carers early in their caring role, before they have developed a need themselves or reached a crisis point. Broaching the conversation can be difficult, so asking a standard question when registering or updating patient details may help, for example:
- Do you provide care and support for someone who wouldn’t manage without your help?
- Is there someone providing you with support that is vital for you to be able to manage?
There are number of things to look for that may suggest someone is a carer. CLICK HERE for a list of examples.
GPs and nurses
GPs and nurses have a distinct advantage over receptionists when it comes to identifying and signposting carers to support services in Richmond Borough. The privacy of the consultation room and the authority afforded by the two professions may allow carers to more readily divulge information about their caring role and to act on signposting advice given to them. This is not always the case as the carer may be too concerned with the medical reason behind the appointment to stop and consider their caring role. However, if they are in receipt of the information they may choose to investigate services at another point. It is also very helpful to record on their medical record if they are caring for another person, so that in the event of an accident, other health professionals will be aware that someone may depend on them. Caring for another person can negatively impact on a carer’s emotional and physical health and wellbeing. Getting them the support they need early in their caring role can help them to manage their health and wellbeing so that they might cope better with the demands of caring.
Similarly to GPs and nurses, pharmacists occupy a position of authority in customer’s minds and so it is a key position for delivering advice and information to carers. Unlike GPs and nurse, pharmacists are not as restricted by time. The more informal nature of a visit to the pharmacy can also help to lower barriers, which may help pharmacists to gently work out if a customer is in fact caring for another person. Addressing the customer directly and enquiring after how they are doing can be all it takes for a person to begin to identify with the term carer. Oftentimes just acknowledging what a carer does and the challenges they face can give a carer enough pause for thought to investigate the support available to them.
Hospital Medical Staff
When a person is admitted to hospital there is an opportunity to identify very quickly if that person has a carer or is a carer. A hospital admission often results in or because of a change of circumstance in someone’s health, therefore it is reasonable to assume that they may already have or will need some care and support in order to manage. If it is established that a person has a carer, that person will be a valuable source of information regarding the patient’s condition/care arrangements and the situation itself provides an opportunity to discover if they are receiving any carers support. If not, the process of discharging the patient could include information for the carer on carers services in Richmond Borough. If the discharge will result in a change/increase on care and support it works as a mechanism for the carer to seek support with that change.
Teachers and School Staff
Young carers providing help and support to a parent, grandparent or sibling often miss out on ordinary childhood experiences and may have difficulty concentrating in school while they are away from the person they care for. Teachers and other members of school staff such as the nurse, learning support assistants, teaching assistants and pastoral workers/family support workers are in a position to help identify and support young carers. Changes in behaviour, an inability to concentrate in lessons or things said in conversation with a pupil or someone close to them may suggest that they are providing care and support for a loved one. Richmond Carers Centre – Young Carers Service supports young carers with mentoring sessions that can take place at school, in the Centre or out in the community. We also run a full school holiday activity programme and after school activities/groups throughout the year. Our Young Carers Support Team is happy to speak with teachers and other members of staff about what to do if you suspect a pupil is a young carer and you can use our online referral form to refer a young carers to us, with their consent.
Paramedics, police officers and the fire service
Members of the emergency services are the few professionals regularly permitted entrance to peoples homes, giving them a level of insight into the lives of the inhabitants not afforded to many others. This puts them in a position to identify situations where there may be a carer present. Based on the surroundings and the presence of individuals, such as house-bound dependants, who may not normally come into contact with members of other professions, the emergency service may identify carers who would otherwise remain hidden.
Other front-line staff
Any one employed in a role that has contact with the public is in a position to help identify and support hidden carers. Bar tenders, bank clerks, retail assistants, council workers; the list goes on. Just acknowledging how a carer may be feeling or coping in their situation can have a huge impact on their own ability to recognise that what they do is above the norm and can help them to seek support from local services. Supplying them with a Richmond Carers Centre leaflet or phone number might give them the courage to call and access the support that is there for them. It takes only these small steps of recognition and information to help carers make giant leaps towards better health for themselves and the person/people they care for. It is by making these moments of effort that we can build truly carer-friendly communities that are fit for a future of caring.
How can you signpost or refer to Richmond Carers Centre?
You can refer a carer to us using one of the referral forms on our contact page or by calling the support team on 020 8867 2380. We would always encourage professionals to refer a carer wherever possible to ensure carers access the support they need. While signposting is extremely worthwhile and will help to improve carer awareness of services available to them, we know that many carers are unlikely to take the next step.
We produce leaflets for each of our adult and young carers services, as well as a quarterly print and digital newsletter. You can give these leaflets directly to people you identify as or know to be carers, or display them in your waiting room and on noticeboards. To order leaflets or newsletter email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can call the support team for information or advice on what to do if you think that someone may be a carer. We have a 24 hour answerphone so if the line is busy we will call you back.