A carer is anyone, including children and adults who looks after a family member, partner or friend who needs help because of their illness, frailty, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction and cannot cope without their support. The care they give is unpaid. When we refer to carers in this document, this is inclusive of both adult and young carers.
Many carers don’t see themselves as carers and it takes them an average of two years to acknowledge their role as a carer (NHS website: Understanding Carers).
It can be difficult for carers to see their caring role as separate from the relationship they have with the person for whom they care, whether that relationship is as a parent, child, sibling, partner, or a friend.
It’s likely that every one of us will have caring responsibilities at some time in our lives with the challenges faced by carers taking many forms. Many carers juggle their caring responsibilities with work, study and other family commitments. Some, in particular younger carers, are not known to be carers. They don’t tell relatives, friends or health and care professionals about their responsibilities because of a fear of separation, guilt, pride or other reasons.
This means that the sort of roles and responsibilities that carers have to provide varies widely. They can range from help with everyday tasks such as getting out of bed and personal care such as bathing, to emotional support such as helping someone cope with the symptoms of a mental illness.
The Department of Health’s mandate to NHS England includes ensuring that the NHS becomes dramatically better at involving carers as well as patients in care. The importance of carers is noted in the NHS Five Year Forward View which notes that to support carers properly we need to have multi-agency and community integration (Five Year Forward View, Oct 2014).
Promoting equality and addressing health inequalities are at the heart of NHS England’s values. Throughout the development of the policies and processes cited in this document, we have:
- Given due regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation, to advance equality of opportunity, and to foster good relations between people who share a relevant protected characteristic (as cited under the Equality Act 2010) and those who do not share it.
- Given regard to the need to reduce inequalities between patients in access to, and outcomes from, healthcare services and in securing that services are provided in an integrated way where this might reduce health inequalities.