Norfolk’s carers missing out on help

Organiser Les Eve(left) welcomes carers to the Carers Week main event at Costessey Community Centre.

Organiser Les Eve(left) welcomes carers to the Carers Week main event at Costessey Community Centre.Photo by Simon Finlay. - Credit: Archant Norfolk

Vast numbers of Norfolk's 95,000 strong army of carers are not getting the support they are entitled to, social services bosses have admitted.

Norfolk County Council officers have conceded there are 'significant issues' around support to unpaid carers, of which there are an estimated 94,700 in the county.

Those carers, many of whom are looking after loved ones, save the NHS and other public services an estimated £1.6bn a year by using their time to help others.

But they are entitled to support of their own. That includes benefits and practical support, such as replacement care to give the carer time off, help with lifting and bathing and home adaptations.

Yet Norfolk County Council is missing its target for assessing who is entitled to that support - which means the issue has been identified as a 'red alert' within the adult social services department.

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A report, which will come before county councillors next week, states that, in some cases, county council staff, pushed for time, are prioritising the needs of the person being cared for, so assessments of support for carers is being recorded later or not at all.

The county council has a target to support 49.5pc of carers after an assessment, but from April to June it was 46.8pc and from July to September it had fallen further to 44.3pc.

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However, part of the problem is because carers themselves, once they are happy the person they care for has been assessed, do not feel they need their own assessment and turn them down.

The fall in performance has sparked a review at County Hall. Investigations have found that the east area, including Great Yarmouth, has the best performance.

Not coincidentally, that is where dedicated carers assessors, jointly funded by the NHS, have been working for the longest amount of time.

Other measures, including encouraging a uniform approach to asking carers to consider assessments, are also being introduced.

Labour county councillor Sue Whitaker, chair of the adult social care committee, said: 'We have unpaid carers of all ages from young schoolchildren through to older people who probably have care needs themselves. They are all unsung heroes.

'It is reckoned that, at a minimum, it would cost Norfolk County Council £500m per annum if we supplied this care ourselves. We owe our unpaid carers an immense debt of gratitude and we must support them to the best of our ability.'

At next week's meeting, the council's adult social care committee is being asked to agree a three-year strategy which sets out a series of commitments to the county's unpaid carers.

Les Eve knows very well how crucial it is that carers receive support. And he has made it his mission to spread that message to other carers.

Mr Eve, 79, spent almost 30 years caring for his wife Shirley at their home in Costessey, after she was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.

He gave up his job in computing to look after Mrs Eve. His experiences with caring for his wife, who died two years ago, led him to set up the Costessey Carers Support Group back in 2002.

Almost 13 years on, and Mr Eve is still involved with the group. He is also a member of the Carers Council for Norfolk and an ambassador for Carers UK.

He said: 'There seems to be a reluctance to ask for help and a reluctance to accept it. I was on the phone to somebody yesterday who looks after their wife and he was telling me he keeps losing his balance.

'I asked him if he'd made an appointment to see his doctor and he said he hadn't, because he would be okay. I said: 'What if something happens to you, then? Who is going to look after your wife?'

'For some unknown reason, people do not come out of the woodwork to ask for help.'

Mr Eve said, when his wife was diagnosed, he faced a battle to get help.

He said: 'When we started on the road and Shirley was diagnosed, nobody told us what help was available. We had to fight to get it. We ended up with a wonderful package, but it was a battle getting it.'

Mr Eve will be at a Carers UK Carers Rights Day later this month, giving carers the information and advice they need on the help available.

It will take place at Costessey Community Centre, Longwater Lane, Costessey on Friday, November 28 and will run from 10am until 1pm.

• What's your experience of being a carer? Write, giving full contact details, to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich NR1 1RE.

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