Crucial role of unpaid carers is the focal point of summit

Written by Euan Duguid.

Published at 10:13 on 8 March 2015

Carers    NHS

Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Sport, Health Improvement & Mental Health, centre, is joined by representatives of carers, including Sean Harkin, far left, at the recent summit.

The vital role unpaid carers are playing in supporting growing numbers of older people was the focal point of a special summit in North Lanarkshire.
North Lanarkshire Carers Together (NLCT) hosted the recent event which was geared to listening to the needs of unpaid carers.
Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Sport, Health Improvement & Mental Health, also addressed delegates at the talks.
The event, held under the national Reshaping Care for Older People programme (RCOP), comes at a pivotal time.
By 2032, it is estimated that the number of people aged over 75 in Scotland is likely to have increased by almost 65%.RCOP aims to make independent, positive living a reality by combining the expertise of a network of agencies and individuals.
In North Lanarkshire, the voluntary sector are working together with partners including NHS Lanarkshire, NorthLanarkshire Council and the independent sector. Unpaid carers are equal partners too and Sean Harkin, Carer Development Officer of NLCT, explained a key aim of the recent summit was to consolidate recognition for the crucial role they play.
Sean added: “A major strand of the RCOP programme in North Lanarkshire has been to strengthen local communities, known as community capacity building.
“The goal is to give people and community groups resources and backing to enable them to take a leading role in developing and contributing to the support and services their community needs - and a great deal of that work has focussed on carers.”
Sean continued: “Without support, the caring role can often feel overwhelming and can leave the person feeling very isolated, as they can become cut off from peers and friends because of the demands.
“Many supports, however, have been put in place in North Lanarkshire already, ranging from home visiting and befriending, advocacy, community transport and food, health and wellbeing. On the day there was a review and presentation about these excellent projects from the raft of organisations involved.”
Allison Smith, also of NLCT, added that a main objective of the day was to listen to delegates so the approach to supporting carers can be refined in future.
“Presentations were followed by energetic round table discussions which gave carers and partner organisations the opportunity to discuss and share experiences, consider what was working and what was not as we move forward,” Allison said.
“The feedback from this day will be fed into discussions as partners forge vital plans to support growing numbers of older people – and their carers – in the future.”
Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Sport, Health Improvement & Mental Health, said: “This summit was a tremendously valuable event, bringing together carers from across North Lanarkshire.  It was a good opportunity for me to hear what has been happening locally on community capacity building and carer support programmes, which of course I have a local interest in too as a representative of a constituency in North Lanarkshire.  I was pleased to be able to give them an update on our future plans.
“As a Government, we recognise the invaluable knowledge and experience that carers and young carers bring, not only to the people they care for, but to their local communities. We will continue to work together with carers, public sector, and voluntary sector partners to ensure that carers and young carers are better identified and supported across Scotland. A new Carers Bill, which will address some of these issues, will be introduced to parliament this year.”

You can contact NLCT on 01698 404055.