While people lined the streets to clap for NHS heroes during the Covid-19 pandemic, an “invisible” army of unpaid carers across Dundee battled on their own frontline.
And the numbers grew, with many people taking on caring responsibilities for relatives and friends who are disabled, ill or older and who needed support during lockdown.
Since the outbreak began, Carers UK estimate that 78% of carers are providing more care – either because of reduced local services or because they fear paid staff being in contact with a vulnerable person.
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Unpaid carers are vital. In ordinary times it is estimated carers save the Scottish economy £10.3bn – a sum close to the cost of providing NHS services to the whole country.
But many of them carry on without help – or don’t identify themselves as carers at all.
As a result Dundee Carers Centre is aiming to “Make Caring Visible” as the team marks Carers Week 2020 with a focus on the need for carers to be recognised, respected and provided with information, support and understanding.
Christie Duncan, 18, was just eight years old when she started caring for her mum, Sharon, who has MS, fibromyalgia and severe arthritis.
A primary school teacher referred her to the young carers project.
Christie said “I was then able to get a better understanding and the support I needed. Now that I am older, I can see that I was a carer long before I started to receive support but didn’t at that point see that I was doing anything different to other kids.
“Today I continue to be a unpaid carer for my mum, this involves helping with finances, shopping, collecting prescriptions and cooking. It has proved difficult over lockdown as I am a key worker so therefore have only been seeing mum from a distance as she is high risk.
“I still continue to help where I can and being in receipt of the E-Shopping card from Dundee Carers Centre has been a huge help”.
Errin Mathieson, 19, a young carer living in Dundee, cares for her mum, Ally, who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
She remembered that time being one of loneliness and confusion but said the support she had received from Dundee Carers Centre was “endlessly positive.”
She added: “The staff are so enthusiastic and friendly which makes it easy to open up and have those serious conversations.
“They are always ready to help you and – more importantly – always listen to what you have to say. Since working with the centre I have been able to take part in group activities, obtain certificates, and meet other young carers”.
Errin added: “I would encourage anybody who thinks they may have a caring role to pick up the phone and give the carers centre a wee call.
“Communication is absolutely the key to being a carer, it is so important to set up a support network for yourself so that you never have to feel alone in your journey. Being a carer for my mum has brought us closer together, and I am so proud to call myself her carer”.
Dundee Carers Centre has recently started locality working, where staff work with key partners, carers and volunteers to provide the right support required for that area.
Claire Martin, community worker for Strathmartine, said “We work very closely with Dundee Carers Centre.
“I am now able to identify unpaid carers and signpost them on to support that is available. Sometimes people don’t see themselves as being in a caring role, they just see it as looking after a loved one”.
Joe Fitzpatrick MSP and guests will feature in Dundee Carers Centre’s Facebook Live event, joined by Clare and Thomas Fleming, young carer ambassadors at Baldragon Academy.
Join the Facebook live event at the Dundee Carers Centre Facebook page at 10am today.
For information and support contact Dundee Carers Centre on 01382 200422. You can also visit the Dundee Carers Centre website.