7th February 2022
Across Cumbria, there are at least 56,000 people in caring roles, with approximately 12,000 in South Lakeland.
Kendal based charity, Carers Support South Lakes, helps around 1,250 unpaid carers, aged between six and 98-years-old to ensure that no one feels alone with their caring responsibilities. It offers carers assessment, counselling, respite breaks, group and one to one support as well as planning for an emergency and putting in place a Lasting Power of Attorney.
“We know that caring for someone can be trying, emotionally demanding and selfless act. It’s a very difficult role no matter how devoted people are to those they are caring for,” said Debi Marsden, Chief Operating Officer.
“We expect many carers have little idea of their statutory rights or the resources available. We are here to ensure carers get the support they are entitled to and need.”
Carers are frequently isolated due to the demands of their caring role. Contact with other carers can reduce the feeling of isolation and is what has made a positive difference to the way some carers have felt during lockdown.
In partnership with three other carers organisations in the county, Carer Support South Lakes created Carer-Connect, a digital platform that allows unpaid carers to chat to others in a safe environment, sharing advice, problems, accessing information or just enjoying some company.
Last year, grants totalling almost £35,000 from the COVID-19 Response Fund allowed the platform to be rolled out to the whole of Cumbria, with ambitions to develop further to include the North West, the North and eventually become a national service.
Carers have their own portal within the platform and they can receive support from staff within their local area, along with access to the main platform and the services on offer.
There are rooms dedicated to a carer type, for example people affected by dementia, parent carers, along with a private room for young carers, which can only be accessed by invitation, enabling young carers throughout Cumbria to share, have fun and relax.
The platform is currently reaching over 250 users, enabling them to access information, chat, interact with their peers and remain socially included.
Joan felt isolated until she joined Carer-Connect after having one-to-one tuition with the platform builder who showed her step by step how to access it. She now regularly enters the chat rooms, does online yoga and finds information that she was unaware of. She feels less anxious in using technology, and now even does an online shop rather than her daughter in Devon doing it for her.
“COVID-19 really highlighted the issue of acute social isolation and the importance of support and conversations for all unpaid carers. This is why Carer-Connect is needed right now. Carer-Connect is predominantly a social space with professional services and support built in. This safe and moderated forum is for unpaid carers with groups for adult and parent carers living throughout Cumbria,” said Debi.
Carer-Connect is free to join and is easy to register. Find out more by visiting www.carer-connect.org