Minister for care launches £5million innovation fund during Stepney Green visit
- Credit: Archant
Minister for care Caroline Dinenage says unpaid carers are “fundamental to supporting our health and care system” and “immeasureably improve lives”.
Ms Dinenage launched the £5million carers innovation fund, which provides seed-funding to develop creative and cost-effective ways to support unpaid carers, at the Carers Centre Tower Hamlets during its 21st birthday celebration and information day.
The centre provides an invaluable resource for carers and the people they care for, providing essential information as well as financial, social, emotional, careers and housing support and other services.
Sheila Sheffield, 77, has been a carer for her son - who lives nearby - for 20 years but only discovered the centre eight years ago.
"I came here desperate, I was almost ready to have a nervous breakdown," she said.
"They helped me to do everything, because I had no idea how I was going to do this.
"You're on your own trying to work it all out, and they uplifted me to be able to cope."
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It is estimated there could be as many as 25,000 carers in the borough, including 3,800 aged under 24, among more than six million carers across the country.
Mrs Sheffield said many carers do not know they are carers while others don't know what support is available.
She said it was vital for people whose "lives have been completely taken over by caring" to connect with others in similar situations who understand their experiences.
"You don't feel isolated because you hear other people's stories," she said.
"It kind of makes you have a different outlook at caring because you think that together you might be able to make a difference.
"It's (exchanging) ideas and information and sharing - and not feeling completely alone."
The carers innovation fund was announced last year as part of the cross-government Carers Action Plan, but the available funding has since been increased from £500,000.
Ms Dinenage said the health and care system would not be sustainable without the contributions of unpaid carers and informal care, but they could not be taken for granted.
"The carers I meet often find what they do is quite exhausting and it impacts their own wellbeing, health, relationships and careers, but they wouldn't not do it because of their sense of responsibility and love for someone they care about," Ms Dinenage said.
"We need to support them in that role and make sure everyone is working together (to do that)."