AT this time of year, many Edinburgh families are heading off on their summer holiday to relax and enjoy time away from daily routines. But for a large proportion of Scotland’s unpaid carers, a break – even for a few hours – can seem a million miles away.
In a 2017 survey of over 900 unpaid carers in Edinburgh by carer charity, VOCAL, only half said they have had a break from caring in the last year and one third had never had any time off, with this figure rising to a staggering 42 percent for carers aged 75 and over.
The positive impact of taking a break from caring responsibilities is made clear in the survey results: 80 per cent of those that had a break say it made it easier for them to continue in their caring role, underlining the importance of providing access to breaks.
For many carers, the barriers to taking time for themselves can often appear too great to overcome. Feeling unable to relax while away, guilt or concerns about the needs of the person they support, and stress associated with planning and paying for breaks and replacement care are some of the main issues carers reported in the survey.
VOCAL has been supporting unpaid carers in Edinburgh for nearly 25 years, providing a gateway to getting the support they need to carry on caring, including help to plan, finance and access breaks. A new online ‘Wee Breaks hub’, due for launch later this year, will further provide carers with access to tools and information on planning and funding breaks, replacement care and where to go for support to get the right break for them.
“There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to taking a break from caring,” says VOCAL chief executive, Sebastian Fischer.
“VOCAL’s emphasis is very much on working with every person individually to find what is most suitable for them so that they get the most out of it.”
Katherine Shaw and her husband are both disabled and provide care for each other whilst also bringing up thier four-year-old son. They hadn’t been on holiday since their honeymoon in 2008 and were awarded a grant through VOCAL’s short breaks fund which meant that they could all go away together and pay for a carer to go with them to support the break.
Katherine told us what it meant to them as a family:
“Our short break was incredible.
“We had a fantastic time. It wouldn’t have been possible without the help and I couldn’t put into words how much it meant to us all!”
Notes for editors:
Helen Gestwicki – communications officer
Edinburgh Carers’ Hub, 60 Leith Walk, Edinburgh EH6 5HB
Tel: 0131 622 6666 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
About carers: Carers are people who, without payment, provide help and support to a partner, child, relative, friend or neighbour who would not be able to live independently without support due to frailty, illness, addiction or disability. There are estimated to be more than 65,000 carers living in Edinburgh, of whom 21 per cent are providing 50 or more hours of care per week (Scotland’s Census (2011); SHeS (2011)).
About VOCAL: VOCAL – Voice of Carers Across Lothian – is a carer-led charity providing support to unpaid carers in Edinburgh and Midlothian at the Midlothian carer centre and Edinburgh Carers’ Hub, and through carer support workers, events and groups based in the local community.
Carers living in Edinburgh or Midlothian can apply to VOCAL’s short break funds for grants and assistance. Grants can cover a number of activities for the carers and/ or the person they care for including transport costs, accommodation, leisure activities, supported holidays or a series of regular short breaks or activities. See the VOCAL website for more information: vocal.org.uk/shortbreaks.
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