With weeks to go until the National Assembly for Wales election in May, Carers Trust Wales is calling on political parties to listen to the voices of carers and build a Caring Wales.

There are at least 370,000 carers in Wales - that’s 12% of the population - caring, unpaid, for a family member or friend who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental health or addiction problems. A snapshot survey carried out by Carers Trust Wales with a cross-section of carers found that half don’t feel that the National Assembly for Wales listens to the voices of carers. The survey also found that carers’ votes are very much up for grabs with less than a third of carers saying they know who they were going to vote for in May.

The survey found that the issues that matter most to carers are the NHS, social services, transport, and education – all of which are the responsibility of the Welsh Government.

Carers Trust Wales is working across Wales to provide all carers with opportunities to talk to, challenge and engage with political parties and candidates. Our online Caring Wales hub gives carers the opportunity to contact all their candidates easily and directly. The hub also provides carers with the social media details of their candidates, so they can publicly call on them to support a Caring Wales.

Carers Trust Wales has laid out the key priorities for carers in the National Assembly for Wales election in 2016:

  • Better support for carers to live, work, and learn in Wales
  • Better access to services and breaks for carers
  • Better recognition and support for carers of people with dementia
  • A better deal for young and young adult carers

Simon Hatch, Director of Carers Trust Wales, said “Wales is in a unique position when it comes to unpaid care, we have more carers proportionally than anywhere else in the UK, and they care for longer hours per week.

“It’s time that carers’ voices were heard and acted upon. We know carers are largely undecided about who they’ll vote for on 5 May, we also know that half of carers don’t feel listened to. Without carers our health and social care systems in Wales would collapse. This is the opportunity for political parties in Wales to make a real difference and promote, protect and recognise the vital work carers do.”

Steven Griffiths, a carer, said “I’m a carer for my father. I’ve looked after him and, until recently, my mother for almost six years. It’s very hard being a carer and I feel confident in saying that, for me, it’s the toughest thing I’ve ever done. You can’t switch off, you have problems retaining a life for yourself and it’s emotionally and physically exhausting.

“We do get help, and we’re grateful for the help we get but it’s always up to us to find out what is available and ask for it. Despite the Carers Measure, carers are still not provided with timely, relevant information by front line staff. This creates a feeling that we shouldn’t be asking for help because help is not freely given. When you consider that carers are supposed to have equality, especially in terms of education, social interaction and work, it makes you want to cry.

“To access services you need to know your rights, you need to assert your rights and you need to be very tough and it shouldn’t be that way. If I could have one wish it would be that every nurse, doctor, social worker and service provider would advise carers of their rights.”