Carers Week

It's national Carers Week and today I'm visiting the Carers Support Service in Chichester which is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Incredibly, there are 6 million people in the UK caring for a relative or friend who, because they are frail, ill or disabled, simply wouldn't be able to manage on their own.

According to a recent survey, 65 per cent of carers are responsible for more than 50 hours of care each week.  And more than half of carers have been forced to give up work.

Carers are the unsung heroes in our community who sacrifice their own health, physical and mental, to look after the people they love.

I know this because carers write to me.  In the last few months I've been trying to help an 18 year old student who for several years now has been looking after her disabled father and younger sibling.

So while most people at this age are going out with friends or playing sports, she provides around-the-clock care for her father and is struggling to keep up with her studies.

Not that there's any hint of resentment.  Like most carers, she is devoted to her family and wants to help.  But it comes at a cost and instead of looking forward to going to university she is worried about what will happen to her father if she moves away.

And she feels different from everyone else, unable to share her problems because she thinks no-one else will understand.  It's a lot of pressure on such young shoulders.

I think it's time we recognised the contribution of carers, young and old, who look after some of the most vulnerable people in our society.  And, where we can, we should help them. 

Despite saving our economy £87 billion a year, we do very little for carers in return.  So I'm pleased that the new Government is urgently looking at how we can reform social care.

Whether it's by giving people more control of their care through personal budgets or making sure that carers are able to take a break every now and again, we owe them our support and our admiration.

Christopher N Howarth