This time last year none of us could have predicted what was in store. It has been a year the like of which no one has ever experienced before. Sadly, some of us have lost family members and friends. We have all had to deal with lockdowns, restrictions and the disruption to our lives which these have brought.

At Gateshead Carers we have seen the added pressures people with an unpaid caring role have faced. We have also witnessed, on a daily basis, the qualities unpaid carers have including amazing resilience, strength, selflessness, determination, kindness, dependability and your unswerving commitment to those you care for. We know how difficult providing unpaid care can be and how it impacts on every part of your life. What you may not know is that each and everyone one of you inspires myself, my colleagues, our volunteers  and our board of trustees to work harder and better everyday for, with and alongside you. There is ordinary and there is extraordinary. In your busy days I hope you give yourself a little time to remember that you are extraordinary.

As we approach the New Year we are all full of hope that 2021 will see our lives return to where they were before the pandemic.  I can’t help thinking what that will look like for the 21000 people in Gateshead who are providing unpaid care to a loved one. 

We have just published our 2020 report on our survey of adult unpaid carers in Gateshead 'Everybody's Business'. 

The findings are a stark reminder of the lives of unpaid carers.

  • Half of the unpaid carers in Gateshead are now providing over 100 hours of care each and every week.
  • Just under 40% of unpaid carers have had to give up work to provide unpaid care
  • There has been an increase in the number of unpaid carers with a mental health condition
    The number of carers with a mental health condition has doubled from 20% in 2017 to 40% in 2020. There has been an increase in the number of unpaid carers reporting disturbed sleep, feeling stressed, being depressed, being short tempered / irritable and being lonely.
  • There has been an increase in the number of unpaid carers who report they have a long standing illness
    This is up from 9% in 2017 to 20% in 2020.
  • Taking on an unpaid caring role is a predictor of future ill health
    1 in 2 carers (50%) report that their unpaid caring role is directly impacting on their own health.  Overall 7 out of every 10 unpaid carers (70%) described their current general health as ‘average, poor or very poor’.
  • The quality of life for unpaid carers remains poor
    40% report feel isolated or lonely, 44% feel they have lost their independence and freedom and 57% do not have sufficient time or energy to participate in training or education. 58% feel their caring role does not allow them to continue with the paid work they would like to do
  • Unpaid carers are not involved with or consulted by health and social care providers on services the cared for person receives
  • 1 in 2 carers (50%) report that they have had no involvement in the support offered to those they care for.  It is not surprising to see that unpaid carers continue to feel unrecognised and not valued.

In the report I ask a simple question of those reading it.

Is this a life I want for myself, for my partner, for my children, for my grandchildren, for my friends?

I’m pretty sure that the overwhelming response will be ‘No, it’s not the life I want or the life I want for my family and friends’.  I have called the report ‘Everybody’s Business’ for the simple reason unpaid caring is everybody’s business’. At some point in their lives 60% of the population of Gateshead will provide unpaid care to a family member or friend. The average 18 year old today will spend 12 years of the rest of their life providing unpaid care.

This report is really much more than ‘a stark reminder’. It is a call for action. Together we have a powerful voice and together we can make change happen. 

With best wishes for Christmas and the New Year,

Steve Cowen
CEO, Gateshead Carers