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Let's give unpaid carers a break

Six months ago, Carers Trust launched an ambitious new fund for carers – Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal Respite Fund for Carers. The fund aims to support thousands of unpaid carers with funded respite, so they can take the breaks they need to recharge and get some much-needed time to themselves. In this blog, Carers Trust’s Philanthropy Manager, Philip Howell-Williams, reflects on the success of the fund so far, and what more needs to be done.

Philip Howell-WilliamsIn May 2021, with a bit of apprehension and excitement, I took on the new role of Philanthropy Manager at Carers Trust.

I’d had some experience of caring after helping to look after my disabled brother when I was a child. But I didn’t know a huge amount more.

Before taking the job I’d obviously researched Carers Trust and all the great work it does. What I hadn’t grasped was the sheer number of unpaid carers in the UK working tirelessly, and without a break, to look after a family member or friend. Nor had I appreciated just how much support they need.

Since the pandemic, however, many of us are beginning to sense for the first time just how hard life can be for unpaid family carers.  That’s because, over two long lockdowns, we all experienced moments when we felt like we just needed to escape - as if we were trapped in our own homes, our normal freedoms taken away.

But this is how millions of people caring, unpaid, for loved ones feel almost all the time. For them, lockdown life is normal life.

Even before the pandemic, ongoing cuts and the collapse of local social care services meant unpaid family carers were having to take on extra responsibilities to care for their loved ones. Coronavirus made what was already a bad situation for unpaid cares far, far worse. Lockdown meant the inevitable closure of even more local support services, piling yet more caring pressure on already exhausted unpaid family carers.

It’s unsurprising therefore that many carers tell us they’re now at ‘breaking point’.

It’s obvious that these unsung heroes need much more support than they currently receive from the government if they are not to be completely overwhelmed. And one of the things they need most is a regular break – some all-important time when they can step away from their caring role to enjoy some precious time to themselves.

And this is why I’m so proud to be leading Carers Trust’s work to raise money for Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal Respite Fund for Carers. The fund was launched to mark the 70th birthday of The Princess Royal who, as President of Carers Trust, has done so much to highlight the need to support the UK’s unpaid carers.

Respite breaks for carers are vital. And throughout my first six months in the job I have witnessed time and time again how donors immediately understand just why respite is so important for carers. And it’s wonderful to see their enthusiasm for making properly funded respite breaks a reality for carers.

Different carers will have different respite needs. For some, it could be a night away.  And for others it could be an hour to go to the gym, or even the chance to just sit in the garden with a cup of tea for half an hour. Whatever it is that helps you close off your mind and recharge, it is vital that you have the option to do so.

To give carers the respite breaks they so desperately need, we must be ambitious. Our target is to provide respite support to 30,000 carers. And to do that, we need to raise £3,000,000.

 In fact, we’ve already raised over £150,000. And that money is being put to good use right now, helping carers around the country get the respite breaks they so desperately need so they can continue to care for their loved ones.

I’ve seen this with my own eyes, having taken part in one of the grants panels that decides on how money raised by the Respite Fund for Carers is distributed. It’s wonderful to know just what a difference the money will make to the carers receiving a grant so they can take a break.

So, a lot has been achieved since the launch of the Respite Fund just six short months ago. But there’s still a long way to go  if we are to reach our target of £3,000,000 to support 30,000 carers.  The good news is we have the structures in place to be able to use the money raised quickly and effectively. 

What’s needed now is to get more people involved in raising the money we need if we are to make our vision of supporting more carers with breaks a reality. 

And if you’re interested in finding out how you can get involved in supporting The Princess Royal Respite Fund for Carers, the best place to start is through our Autumn 2021 Impact Report. You’ll find everything you need here, including what we’ve achieved so far.

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