Norfolk carers charity close to £750,000 milestone

Paddy Seligman is chairman of the Norfolk Millennium Trust for Carers.

Paddy Seligman is chairman of the Norfolk Millennium Trust for Carers. - Credit: Archant

A remarkable milestone is set to be passed by a Norfolk charity dedicated to making life better for the thousands of unpaid carers of all ages in the county.

The Norfolk Millennium Trust for Carers has given grants to no fewer than 2,413 individual carers and 51 groups during its 15-year existence and the total amount of money paid out is set to top £750,000 by the end of April.

More than £500,000 has come from the income from investments, while the rest is money donated for specific items like laptops for young carers and wheelchair power packs.

And its work continues as the number of carers grows and the squeeze on health and social care budgets adds to the 24/7 pressures of looking after a loved-one. The Trust fills gaps in state provision, helping some of the most deserving, and often most neglected, people in our community.

'All our grants are targeted at providing relief and support for carers, removing financial worry by paying for necessary equipment, providing respite through a holiday or leisure activities or giving access to the wider world via the internet and a laptop,' said Paddy Seligman, the Trust's chairman.

'Support and relief for carers has one vital result. It sustains and restores their ability to care, and this is the ultimate benefit to those being cared for.'

The Trust was born of the EDP We Care Appeal launched in 1998 with the objective of raising at least £1million to establish a permanent fund to give carers direct financial help. Today it stands at more than £1.142million and makes a real difference to hundreds of lives.

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The We Care Appeal raises money for the Trust which oversees the endowment fund. Only the income from the capital is spent. All the money raised is invested and only the income from investments is given in grants.

An estimated one in seven people in Norfolk is a full or part-time carer. Hundreds are children who have to juggle school, homework and having friends with the pressure of caring for their mum or dad at home.

The Trust helps young and old alike. Applications are endorsed by health professionals like GPs and social workers. And many grants are for modest things.

A young brother and sister had swimming lessons paid for; another child can now attend drama classes once a week. Fishing rods, calligraphy pens and an aromatherapy course were also funded recently.

Latest figures from CarersUK illustrate just how important carers are, putting the value of their contribution across the country at a staggering £132billion, equal to total health spending and a fifth of the government's entire expenditure.

And a succession of reports has underlined the difficulties faced by unpaid carers, predicting things are likely to get worse.

One concluded there will be a major shortfall in those needed to look after the care of an ageing population - with the number of older people in need of care and support out-stripping the number of working-age family members able to provide it by as early as 2017.

And the national State of Caring 2015 report from CarersUK highlighted the strains on carers whose numbers are already growing rapidly and likely to swell by a further 10 million in the next few years.

Its survey of some 5,000 unpaid carers found increasing concerns about financial hardship and levels of practical support from social services, the detrimental effect of caring on their own physical and mental health and wellbeing, increased loneliness, and the impact on maintaining a relationship or staying in work.

The report called for better financial support for carers, greater investment in health and social care, more opportunities for carers to take a break and a statutory right to 'care leave' so employees can take 5-10 extra days off for their caring responsibilities.