New database to bring paid and unpaid carers together for additional support
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A database to collate both paid and unpaid carers in Suffolk is to be created in a bid to help provide them with more support.
A motion unanimously passed at Suffolk County Council on Thursday agreed to a new contract with Suffolk Family Carers from April in which the charity's database would be expanded to attract more of the county's army of unpaid carers.
It will help signpost carers to advice, including financial, support mechanisms and how to arrange emergency care if they have to isolate for Covid-19, among many other areas.
National data indicated that the number of carers in the UK had swelled from nine million prior to the pandemic to more than 13.6m today. That equates to a rise of 64,000 in Suffolk on the 100,000 already known about pre-Covid.
However, many carers are unknown because they do not receive financial support, are not registered as carers with GPs or do not consider themselves carers.
It is estimated that the existing database for Suffolk Family Carers has only one in 10 actual carers out there.
Liberal Democrat Caroline Page, who proposed the motion, said: "Being a carer is a difficult role at the best of times – long hours, the work is physically hard, and for most people there is no pay at all.
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"During the pandemic more people than ever before have been forced to take on a caring role for their loved ones, and they have saved the country and the county huge amounts of money by doing so, at the cost of their own physical, mental and financial wellbeing.
"We really need to offer them targeted support to prevent burnout, breakdown or tragedy. Many carers are living lives of quiet desperation behind closed doors, invisible even to their own neighbours
"They need information and advice, and some actual practical help. This opt-in register will be a brilliant first step to achieving that by actually finding out who we need to help – and what they need."
Conservative cabinet member for adult social care, Beccy Hopfensperger, seconded the motion, and described both paid and unpaid carers as "hidden heroes".
"These carers have played a huge part in ensuring our social care system remains stable," she said.
"A lot of family carers go under the radar. We want them to know support is available, whether that's finding respite or even chatting to someone on the phone."
Other forms of support the database will help target include professional education or support opportunities and help for employers to support carers in their workforce.
Spokeswoman for health in the council's opposition Labour group, Helen Armitage said it would be "helping to support those who do so much for others," and added: "We need to encourage as many carers as we can - whether they receive carer's allowance or not - to register with Suffolk Family Carers, and we can all take some responsibility for that."
More details on the database and how to sign up are expected in the coming weeks and months once it is established.