Action plan to help support 100,000-plus unpaid carers in Suffolk

People with dementia and their carers can enjoy a number of actvities from The Debenham Project

Experts say there could be as many as 100,000 unpaid carers in Suffolk - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A plan to help support the tens of thousands of unpaid carers in Suffolk is “utterly essential”.

That's the view of Caroline Page, Liberal Democrat councillor for Woodbridge, who has been an unpaid carer for 20 years - but she said getting the strategy right is vital.

Suffolk County Council is currently working with the Family Carers Partnership Board, NHS clinical commissioning groups, carer groups and a host of other organisations to draw up its first all-age carer strategy.

The plan aims to identify how many family or unpaid carers there are in Suffolk, ascertain what support they get and find ways to meet their needs.

Councillor Caroline Page. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Councillor Caroline Page says a plan to hep carers is "essential" - Credit: SARAH LUCY BROWN

The strategy is due to be published in September with an associated action plan.

Ms Page said: “I think it’s utterly essential, particularly at the moment with care being such a hot potato, you have to rely on unpaid carers more than ever before, and if you are going to really support them you need to support them effectively.

“Effectively doesn’t mean giving them a pat on the hand saying ‘we do understand you’ or offering wellness. It means what they personally decide they need. You cannot do that unless you talk to them and you cannot talk to them if you don’t know who they are.”

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The 2011 census recorded just under 78,000 unpaid or family carers in Suffolk, but Suffolk Family Carers estimates that is now in excess of 100,000.

Ms Page added: “If you have absolutely no idea how many there are, how can you make provision for them? That’s the bottom line.

“Particularly during the pandemic, people could be dying behind closed doors because people don’t know they exist.

"That sounds dramatic but if you are very proud and people who don’t want to be seen to be taking from anyone, like a number of people I know, they will not wish to have attention drawn to what they are doing. They are intrinsically very vulnerable because they have no support system.”