THE BLOG

The Carer's Lifeline

13/06/2013 19:59 BST | Updated 13/08/2013 10:12 BST

Carers' Week runs from 10 -19 June 2013. This UK-wide annual awareness campaign is aimed at improving the lives of the country's 6.5million carers [700,000 are young carers].

Every day, 6000 people take on a caring responsibility - 3 out of 5 people will do so at some point in their lives. This is a workforce that has no acknowledgement or thanks for their hardships, yet saves the government £119 billion every year. Isolated and shunned from the modern, trendy, fast moving society, they cope alone with the negative image that people have of them.

Instead of offering them hope, access to education, freedom to have a normal love life, doctors brand them as potentially mentally ill adding yet another stigma for them to cope with. Carers are people just like you and me. They have dreams, colourful personalities, intelligence and the ability to be kind and generous. Authorities and society just do not give them a break.

George Osborne once said "Government is here to help families who go out to work". This demonstrates a complete lack of respect and acknowledgement for the hard work that carers do in the home. For their trouble, they receive £58.45 per week, or just £0.35 per hour [way below the National Minimum Wage]. Osborne again propagates the idea that to be accepted in society, you have to "go out to work" hence he prioritises support for "nuclear families". As gratitude to the £119 billion saving made by the government, carers are forced to live on the poverty line and under severe hardship.

Carers appear to be discriminated against in all walks of life, despite talk about their rights . Unfortunately, there are few equal opportunities despite the media spin. Flexible education, for example, is virtually inaccessible - significant barriers to education are discussed in this LSC Report

Carers UK provides some minor advice here and here. However, those with a first degree find it almost impossible to obtain funding, although carers do have access to Caring with Confidence Programme online.

While the government has effectively neglected carers' lives, there are alternatives available online. Options for free online learning include Coursera + BBC website . Open Culture, Learndirect, Vision to Learn , Khan's Academy and the University of the Third Age provide low cost courses online and via attendance.

The CES Study (CES) (2006-2007) stated that among 'working carers' in the study almost three-quarters considered that they did not have adequate support from formal social and public services to enable them to manage their dual work and caring roles - some felt they were discriminated against by 'the system' despite this landmark case . To circumvent these stressful problems, self employment may be a valid alternative. [Business Link helpline].

Every carer needs good access to their general practitioner [and that of their loved one], who will be able to assist in all aspects of healthcare, and is able to refer onwards for further help. All carers have a legal right to a Carers Assessment . The Carers Emergency Response Service .

Carers health advice is can be accessed through Carewell . Financial information for carers can be accessed here. For assistance with NHS-specific costs, this website is useful for all carers..

The carers organisations have various magazines but CareGiver.com, based in the US, is fairly pro-active about carers.

Given the health problems that carers are susceptible to, it is important for them to understand the need to make time to look after themselves as well as their loved one. Organisation, planning, making lists, and rapid problem-solving are the keys to achieving some balance in life. At the end of each day, always review how things could be improved.

Every carer should have a diary, a wall planner, a notice board, a good mobile phone and a basic computer with online access. A good smartphone has some fantastic Apps that can make life easier. Access to carers resource websites is essential [Carers UK , Carers Direct,Carers Trust] . Online supermarket shopping, too, is easy and saves time and effort.

It is worth joining a local group of carers to share experiences and problem solve every day dilemmas. In terms of leisure time, the CEA card enables the carer can obtain a free ticket if accompanying a person on various benefits, as outlined here. It is also important to join the local library, as it will have access to a wealth of information.

Local leisure centres may have similar concessions . Your local council may have a list of concessions like this, that will make life a lot easier. It is important to keep your brain active, and to be positive in all aspects of life, despite the hardships that caring brings. Free software like Kindle software for PC will enable your PC to download numerous free books available on Amazon.com and Project Gutenberg.

Music is also a mood lifter, according to research. A combination of proper planning, keeping your mind busy with various activities and eating regularly is the key to keeping positive. It's important to watch television or an online streaming service for recreational time - lots of free movies are available on websites like YouTube. Cooking healthily and gardening are also positive moves.

In terms of socialising, your options are the local carers group, friends or family, University of the Third Age, Facebook, Twitter, Carers online forums etc. Due to obstacles faced by carers, many feel they have "lost out on life" but it is important to remember that in this system, there are no heroes - you are your own hero. Life is what you make