Black History Month: Celebrating and Supporting Black Carers
The month of October is Black History Month, a time to recognise and celebrate the contributions made by the African and Caribbean community. While history and these achievements cannot be crammed into all of one month, and should be celebrated all year round; Black History Month provides a platform to acknowledge and highlight struggles and successes. It also presents an opportunity for those outside the BAME community to discover new insights, to learn and to grow.
Like many Carers, Sylvia Thompson wears many hats. She is a Family Support Worker for Birmingham Children’s Trust, she voluntarily runs a Carers group and she is a Carer to her elderly mother. Sylvia is founder and organiser of the Birmingham Black Carers Support Group which started in 2016.
Sylvia started the group because she had identified that the cultural needs and understanding of black Carers and the challenges, they were facing was the missing link within the community and official agencies. In 2017, with the support of the Lord Mayor and 14 families, Birmingham Black Carers Support Group was officially launched. Sylvia has gone one to help many Carers in Birmingham.
At the NHS Lambeth Clinical Commissioning Group Lammy Awards, Roxeanne Daniels (pictured on the right) won the Unpaid Carer of the Year Award having cared for her mother who had cancer and an older sibling with mental health issues. She also cared for her younger sister with Downs Syndrome for 28 years.
Deniece Campbell, who cares for her young autistic son was also honoured with a People’s Choice Award. Deniece was awarded for the impact she had made within the Black Minority Ethnic (BME) community, running her own peer support group and ‘advocating to improve the quality of life for children with special educational needs and disabilities, their parents and carers’. Both Deniece and Roxeanne are members of Lambeth Carers Strategy Group, which launched an ambitious action plan to enrich carers’ lives.
Evidence shows that on the whole, if you are black, you are more likely to suffer from underlying health conditions, be unemployed and live in poverty. The recent study, published in The Lancet Public Health, also found that ethnic minorities are also more likely to report worse treatment when visiting their GP surgery, and receive insufficient support from local services, such as housing and social care.
So, what is it like if you are carer from the Afro Caribbean community?
Carers UK’s report – Half a Million Voices: improving support for BAME carers found that there are 500,000 Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) carers in England. This report shows that BAME Carers provide more care than average. They face additional difficulties as they care, struggling with language barriers, accessing culturally appropriate services and with stereotyping around caring. This puts them at greater risk of ill health, poverty, loss of employment and social exclusion.
According to the Race Equality Foundation briefing paper, the experiences of black and minority ethnic Carers are frequently different and may be more challenging than those of white Carers. Black and minority ethnic Carers are not only less likely to access services but may also find services less satisfactory than white Carers. This is backed by research that found 64% of black people in the UK do not believe that their health is as protected by the NHS compared with white people’s. That negative view of the health service is shared by a majority of black people of almost all ages, and is held especially strongly by black women, according to findings of a study commissioned by a parliamentary committee.
The report, Beyond We Care Too, Putting Black Carers in the Picture, showed that culturally relevant services are thin on the ground. Meals in hospital settings not accommodating religious and dietary needs, inadequate personal care such as assisting a woman to put on her sari or help with her hair and skincare for African and Caribbean people are just a few examples.
What can be learnt from this?
By shining a spotlight on black Carers and the extra challenges they face, positive changes can be introduced and implemented. One problem that can be overcome is the terminology used. For example, the translation for the word Carer does not exist in the Asian languages so ‘carers’ from this community will be less likely to identify themselves as a carer and seek support.
According to the Beyond We Care Too report, black Carers also find it hard to identify with the term ‘Carer’ or recognise it as a role and what constitutes ‘care giving’. The use of the term Carer is universally misunderstood and misapplied. In Black and ethnic minority communities this confusion works as a further barrier to deter Carers from approaching services.
In addition, there is an unwillingness to admit to caring for someone with stigmatised conditions such as mental illness, dementia or HIV as well as not want to acknowledge needing outside help. This may be related to a belief that caring for relatives is the family’s responsibility and cultural beliefs about duty.
As already stated, Black History Month presents an opportunity for self-development, a time to learn and to grow as a human being. To support more Carers from the BAME community we need to use the rights words, delivered in the right way and help to dispel any stigmas and myths around certain health conditions. Whether you work within health and social care or whether you are a Carer; this Black History Month and with all the months that follow, let’s all do things a little differently to help our fellow Carers.