Ten things volunteers should know about carers

1. Who is a carer?

A carer is anyone who cares, unpaid, for someone who would find it difficult to cope without their support. Each caring situation is unique and the amount of care given can vary enormously. Someone providing care may not always identify themselves as a “carer” and they may juggle caring with other responsibilities like work or parenting. Many carers see the support they provide to a loved one as their duty, as part of their daily routine. Some may be reticent about identifying themselves as a carer for fear of interference by outside agencies.

2. Networks of support

Volunteers may ask carers if they get any support from neighbours, friends or family. It is important that carers have some respite, and the current distancing regulations do allow for additional help provided sensible precautions are taken. If you have concerns, refer them to your host organisation who will advise.


3. Support for Carers

Carers should be encouraged to inform their GP of their role as this will help them access support for themselves and the person they care for. Carers in Herts also offers a wealth of support including a “Carers’ Passport” which gives access to over 400 shopping discounts.


Volunteers may find it appropriate to ask carers to check if they are entitled to benefits such as the Carers’ Allowance. Encourage people to consult Carers in Herts or click here for more information.


4. Young Carers

Children or young people may care for an older family member who may be ill, have a physical or learning disability, a mental health condition, or an addiction problem. If you encounter any young carers, make sure they know about Carers in Herts and alert your host organisation so they can ensure the person is supported. If you have any concerns, talk to your host organisation about safeguarding.


5. Shielding

People deemed as high risk are strongly advised to stay at home at all times and avoid any face-to-face contact for at least 12 weeks. However, people who provide essential support, including unpaid carers, can still visit provided they have no COVID-19 symptoms. If the cared for person has received a government letter advising them to shield for twelve weeks, or believes they should have received a government letter, then refer them to their GP and also contact your host organisation for advice.


6. Health and wellbeing of carers

Caring can be stressful and physically demanding so it is important that carers look after themselves – but they can neglect their own health as they focus on the needs of the person they care for. With the current “lockdown” carers are under more pressure than normal and their usual sources of support may be unavailable. This may cause stress of anxiety. If you are concerned about the health or wellbeing of a carer then refer to your host organisation for advice.


7. Contingency planning

Cared for people are often highly dependent on their carers. It is sensible to have in place some form of plan to in case the carer falls ill or has to self-isolate. Refer to your host organisation for advice.


8. Mutual Caring

An elderly couple may have different problems or disabilities and develop routines and ways of coping that mean that each cares in part for the other. Sometimes, there may be a third person in the household, such as a son or daughter with learning difficulties, who may also have both needs and talents. This is known as mutual caring. Such households can often cope very well for long periods and so remain “hidden” from people who can provide support when it is finally needed. If you recognise any households like this, advise your host organisation who can help make sure that people are appropriately supported.

9. Equalities Act 2010 for Protected Groups

Case law has established that carers have certain rights under the Equality Act 2010 because they are seen as being “associated” with someone who is protected by the law because of their age or disability.


10. Safeguarding

If you have any safeguarding concerns, always refer to your host organisation for advice.