Carers charity receives £350K from National Lottery to help families in Cambridgeshire
A Cambridgeshire charity has received over £350,000 in National Lottery funding to bring carers across the region together, providing the support they need to reduce loneliness following a difficult two years - which for many carers was spent in extended periods of isolation.
Caring Together provides vital support to carers and their families across Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and Norfolk, including training information on accessing rights and entitlements, and long-term support with care planning.
The charity also provides a cover service so that carers can take a much-needed break from their responsibilities when they need it.
The funding from The National Lottery Community Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK, will help the charity to further develop its services and increase its volunteer base, with the aim of extending its reach to more carers across the East of England.
One person whose family has received support from Caring Together is Ruth Higginson from Huntingdon, who is mum to teenage daughter Josie and teenage triplets Jamie, Phoebe and Amelia. Phoebe and Amelia have a rare condition called GRIN2b and are profoundly disabled needing round-the-clock care.
She said: “As a family, we do absolutely everything for them throughout the day and night such as changing their pads, dressing, feeding through their gastrostomies, bathing, medication and turning them in bed. Sometimes you do feel like you’re the only person in the world who is in this situation. Everything takes a long time with two disabled children.
Josie and Jamie have to help care for their sisters too, so we can do all the other everyday jobs that need to be done.
“When Caring Together walks through the door we feel the weight of responsibility lift and the opportunity to get on top of things and keep in control of everyday life. The care workers who come in and help us with Phoebe and Amelia are wonderful. To hear them coming in and to know we have their help is amazing. Josie and Jamie can relinquish being young carers for a time and be average teenagers. Caring Together are absolutely amazing, I
can’t imagine our life without them. They have supported us so much.”
Through Caring Together’s ‘Listening Ear’ service, its team of dedicated volunteers are on-hand to talk to carers about a variety of concerns, issues or difficulties they might be facing.
Caring Together also brings together a growing network of like-minded carers to share stories, words of encouragement and moments of light relief.
Research by the charity, which supports carers of all ages from as young as five, shows that throughout the pandemic, 85 per cent of carers were unable to take a break from caring, 83 per cent felt
more stressed, 68 per cent felt lonelier and more isolated and 61 per cent believed their mental health was
being negatively affected.
However, the charity has risen to these challenges. Between 2020-2021 it reached 17,500 carers, their families and the people who support them, made 1,385 calls to carers as part of its ‘Listening Ear’ service, ran 109 carer groups and workshops, and supported 342 carers when their physical or mental health was at crisis point. It also helped over 28 carers attend their COVID-19 vaccination appointments and delivered 200 care packs, including essential items such as PPE.
With the help of the new funding, the charity also plans to work with more employers across the East of England to make them aware of the pressures faced by the carers within their workforce. Its ‘Carer Friendly Tick Award’ scheme encourages employers to identify and support carers, with a toolkit that can provide them with ideas on how to become more carer friendly.
Melanie Gray, deputy chief executive of Caring Together, said: “Looking after a family member or friend can be a hugely rewarding but very demanding role and there can be significant impacts on carers’ health and well-being. Many people have struggled during the coronavirus pandemic, but life has been even harder for those looking after someone.
"Thanks to The National Lottery Community Fund we are going to be able to do more to help carers in ways that will make a big difference to them. With the number of people looking after someone else having almost doubled during the pandemic, this support is needed now more than ever.”