Can the ‘new normal’ make caring more visible?
Lockdown might have allowed us to see into each other's homes. But, this Carers Week, Charmian Walker-Smith says we still have a long way to go if we are really going to make caring visible.
Meetings at Kaleidoscope are pretty efficient. We get stuff done. Recently, however, some participants haven’t been contributing as constructively as usual; talking over each other, demanding attention, howling for snacks. Worst of all, they’re letting their kids join too. My Zoom-bombing cherubs are a regular feature of meetings at Kscope towers.
Candid vignettes of family life have become a lockdown trope. People seem quite pleased to see past professional personas. My hope is that sharing unfiltered versions of our lives at home might change the value and importance our culture gives to caring responsibilities. Though I would love that to be true, it will take more than some disrupted meetings to fix our over-reliance on, and under appreciation of, unpaid care.
Make care visible
This is an issue that is opaque even to those who are impacted. Unpaid carers often don’t identify themselves as carers. Which means that carers are rarely the people making decisions about care, because when and how are they meant to engage?
Full-time care is emotionally, physically and financially demanding. It can leave family members feeling socially isolated and having to meet hidden costs. Their responsibilities don’t allow them a lot of time for their own health and wellbeing and digital exclusion remains a key issue for many.
I don’t want a ticker-tape parade but a meaningful shift, where carers are invited into policy making and listened to.
Invite carers in
Carers and caring doesn’t just need to be visible, it needs to be heard, acknowledged, celebrated. We recognise the wonderful people who care for us when they wear a uniform, but anyone who isn’t paid to feed, clothe, medicate, entertain, transport another person never seems to warrant our attention. I don’t want a ticker-tape parade but a meaningful shift, where carers are invited into policy making and listened to.
At Kaleidoscope our approach is always collaborative, evidence-based and cost-effective. Bringing people together and making connections is at the heart of everything we do. It is not an easy option but we know that if we don’t work with people to make decisions, then essential knowledge and insight is lacking.
Since the Covid-19 pandemic started, 4.5 million additional people are caring for older, disabled or seriously ill relatives or friends. The six Carers Week charities are calling on the Government to deliver a plan for social care reform and set out long term investment in care and support services. New challenges require new ways of working. Not only do we need a plan, we need reforms that are shaped by carers themselves.
To find out more about Carers Week 2020 visit carers.org