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What is Carer Friendly Communities?

Carer Friendly Communities is an initiative led by Forward Carers to make a difference to the lives of Carers. We spoke with Project Manager, Chantell Marler, to learn what Carer Friendly Communities is, and what it means to our local communities.

What is the purpose of Carer Friendly Communities?

In easy terms, the purpose is to raise awareness and understanding of the impact that caring has on individuals. These individuals may be caring for a loved one, a family member, a neighbour or a friend who couldn’t support themselves without additional help. This could be anything from thinking about their financial support, right through to their physical and emotional support.

There are so many people in these caring roles that are never going to call themselves ‘Carers’. They could just be a mum or a son or a friend. They don’t have to label themselves as a ‘Carer’, but there needs to be a recognition that the additional pressures can have an effect on these people. It also needs to be recognised that there is support out there for them.

Where did the idea of Carer Friendly Communities come from?

The Unsung Heroes campaign, led by Forward Carers, was set up to raise awareness and celebrate the role of family carers across Birmingham. The campaign was part of Ageing Better in Birmingham and funded by The Big Lottery Fund and ended in June 2020. During that campaign we spoke to Carers and we heard them telling us that they feel undervalued, not recognised and that they are missed out of important conversations about the person they are caring for, that their employers just don’t understand. Because of this campaign, we launched Carer Friendly Communities. If an employer takes one or two small steps, and thinks about the conversation that they can have, it can make a huge impact on supporting a Carer. It would mean that the Carer could go into work with less pressure. The Carer would know that their managers understand that they have additional pressures at home. We’re hoping that if employers become more flexible, Carers won’t have to give up work, or reduce hours.

Why should this be important to me, as a business?

With 1 in 7 of the people you meet in the workplace going home to caring duties, this is something that will affect all employers. Doing something about it will make you a better employer. It helps reduce your staff sickness, and staff are going to feel valued and are less likely to leave. This increases productivity within your workforce. It also means that your workforce is happier and more content. They will know that they are valued regardless of what’s going on outside the workplace. Your workforce will know that their home life is as equally important as their work life to their employer.

What does Carer Friendly Communities mean to you?

It’s just really important that communities across the board understand who a Carer might be; that the person they’re talking to, or their friends, may have additional pressures at home.

From a personal point of view, if I was in that situation, I would want those people around me to understand what I’m going through. If I was in a caring role and I had a conversation with my employer, I would want them to value and understand what I’m saying.

What is the future vision for Carer Friendly Communities?

We want to create a cultural change. We want to have as many employers, communities and people recognising Carers; whether that is the corner shop you’ve been going to for the last 10 years recognising you’re in a caring role, and just asking if you’re okay, or your manager at work providing flexibility.

How can people get involved with Carer Friendly Communities?

Anyone interested can take a look at our website and explore the different ways to get involved. They can also drop us an email via the contact form, give us a phone call or follow our social media channels.