Covid raises numbers of unpaid carers

North Argyll Carers Centre manager Judith Hawcroft recently received a cheque for £4,000 from Oban Rotary Club President Douglas Small to support its work with young carers.

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Numbers of unpaid carers in North Argyll will have risen due to the Covid pandemic.

According to latest national figures, an estimated 392,000 people in Scotland have taken on the role of carers without pay during the virus crisis.

Although exact numbers are not yet known for our area, the figures will inevitably be higher now than at the start of the outbreak, says Judith Hawcroft, manager of North Argyll Carers Centre.

‘I’m certain there will have been an increase here as well as a change in the intensity of roles of existing carers,’ she said.

National statistics released by Carers UK in their report for Carers Week last month, showed approximately 239,000 women and 153,000 across Scotland have started caring for relatives who are older, disabled or living with a physical or mental illness during the pandemic.

Typically, they will have been supporting loved ones from afar, helping with food
shopping, collecting medicine, managing finances and providing reassurance and
emotional support.

Some will have taken on intense caring roles, helping with tasks such as personal
care, moving around the home, administering medication and preparing meals.

The Carers UK report also said more than  227,000 Scots who have started caring since the outbreak are also juggling paid work alongside their caring responsibilities, highlighting the need for working carers to be supported as they return to offices and work sites.

The extra 392,000, on top of the 729,000 unpaid carers in the country who were already caring before the outbreak, brings Scotland’s total to 1.1 million.

But Covid-19 has also brought unpaid carers to the attention of the wider population, says Carers UK and Ms Hawcroft hopes that will help bring about more positive change to support people in those roles.

There is a majority consensus in Scotland for unpaid carers to receive more support, said a recent poll showing nearly four in five of the Scottish thought the Government should increase support for unpaid carers: such as better financial support as well as
investment in care and support services so that carers can take a break.

Throughout the Covid crisis, North Argyll Carers Centre has kept offering  emotional and practical support to carers across the Oban, Lorn and Isles area, maintaining connections through regular support calls and using Facebook and Whatsapp groups, video calling and Zoom.

The centre has also set up a wellbeing blog and have replaced weekly wellbeing groups
with virtual sessions, Daily on-line groups for young carers, replacing after-school
clubs, lunchtime drop-ins and 1:1s are also being run.

There are 600 carers and more than 100 young carers linkd to the centre in Albany Street. ‘But that’s only those who are known to us, it’s the tip of the iceberg,’ said Ms Hawcroft.

Anyone caring for someone and feeling in need of support or a listening ear can contact North Argyll Carers Centre on 01631 564422, email or visit their website