On Monday I nervously gulped down my coffee on my way to work and my first week as CEO of Carers Trust. It’s a huge challenge and a big move in every sense, not least as it means moving from South Wales to London! I’m five days in now, so it’s a good time to sit down, with more coffee, and gather my thoughts.

The first thing to say is that I’ve been really inspired by the people I’ve met so far. It’s no exaggeration to say that this first week really has given me an even greater energy and enthusiasm to strive to ensure we really live up to our strategy and Make Carers Count.

I always wanted to spend these first few days listening to colleagues from across Carers Trust and its Network Partners. And thanks to them, I’ve already learned a lot. I’ve also developed a greater understanding of our people, our partners and how we collectively support carers.

On Tuesday, for example, I spent some time with the incredible team at Carers Trust Lea Valley. They are one of our key partners in London and provide crucial respite support to carers. Naturally, they have their own unique challenges as a local delivery partner of Carers Trust. So it was pleasing to hear about how they are collaborating with their partners at Enfield Carers Centre to improve services and support for carers.

I’ve also met with many colleagues from across our teams at Carers Trust, and I’ve been struck by their commitment to our vision to Make Carers Count. Our people don’t simply turn up to work to do a job, they come here to make a difference. They have challenged me to ensure that Carers Trust places the voice of carers at the centre of our work. They also want us to create a clear vision that is bold, challenging and able to to support carers with our partners.

One of those key partners is NHS England. I attended their 7th annual Commitment to Carers Conference today. It was pleasing to hear some of the innovative work that has been happening in the NHS to support carers and I felt a huge amount of pride to hear about how Carers Trust has been part of that.

As you may know, over 80% of carers are first identified in our NHS, and carers continue to tell us that they still struggle to get the support they need at this stage in their caring journey. We will continue to work with our colleagues at NHS England and all of our partners across the UK to ensure carers continue to be placed at the centre of their work, as they will be with Carers Trust.

Gareth Howells joined Carers Trust as CEO in December 2019.