There are currently an estimated 250,000 carers working in the NHS, many of whom are aged between 45-64 and so are likely to be among our most experienced and skilled staff. The care they give is unpaid and often helps to keep some of our most vulnerable members of society out of hospital or social care and improve their quality of life.
A carer is someone who provides unpaid care and support to a family member or friend due to their disability, health condition, frailty, mental health problem, addiction or other health and care need. If you are looking after a child, including your own child, who has special physical or mental health support needs, then you are also a carer.
- Speaking to your line manager about a Carer’s passport is a good place to start. A Carer’s passport will identify you as a carer and can help you frame discussions with your line manager which might include conversations around flexible working and other support available to you. We are working on a digital solution to enable this document to travel with you between roles and organisations, and ensuring all NHS organisations in England are part of the scheme.
- You can also access the Carers UK’s Digital Resource for Carers which provides a range of useful tools and resources to support you as a carer. Your access code will be made available to you by your line manager or HR team.
- Let your line manager know about your caring responsibilities so they can provide you with the support you need to balance your caring and work responsibilities. They can also flag this on ESR (Electronic Staff Record) so that we can be better aware of our unpaid carers and continue to support you. A ‘how to’ guide is now available
1) It’s important to find who the carers are on your team and ask them how they’d like to be supported. This can be done during 1:1 conversations, using the tools and resources available at Employers for Carers for support. The Working Carer’s Passport Log provides a useful way to guide and capture these conversations.
You can also use ESR to capture details of carers on your team to help ensure that we understand who our carers are, where they are working and how we can best support them. Find out more in this ESR guidance on identifying carers within your organisation.
2) Visit the Employers for Carers (EfC) digital platform, which provides line managers with useful tools and interactive resources to learn how best to support working carers.
Each Integrated Care System (ICS) /Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) footprint has its own unique Access Code for the platform which allows users to create a free account. Your HR lead will be able to give you the sign in details, or access them on your behalf from the ICS/STP workforce lead
3) Share Carers UK’s Digital Resource for Carers with the carers in your team. It provides useful materials to support carers as they balance caring responsibilities with work.
Each ICS/STP footprint has its own unique Access Code for the platform which allows the carers in your team to create a free account. Your HR lead will be able to give you the sign in details, or access them on your behalf from the ICS/STP workforce lead
1) Find out who the carers are in your organisation and support them using ESR and the Carers Passport Scheme. Lead by example and ask your team in their next 1:1s whether they have caring responsibilities. Use the Working Carers Passport Log to guide these conversations.
2) Visit the Employers for Carers (EfC) digital platform for tools and interactive resources to learn how best to support working carers in the NHS.
Each ICS/STP footprint has its own unique Access Code for the platform which allows users to create a free account. For access codes, please contact your ICS/STP workforce lead.
3) Encourage the creation of and regular meetings of a Carer’s network.
4) Share Carers UK’s Digital Resource for Carers with your line managers and colleagues. It provides useful materials to support carers as they balance caring responsibilities with work.
Each ICS/STP footprint has its own unique Access Code for the platform which allows the carers in your organisation to create a free account. For access codes, please contact your ICS/STP workforce lead. Alternatively if you are a HR Administrator within ESR you can access a file directly from ESR to locate your codes. To find out how, log in to ESR as normal. Here you will be asked to download a file which you can use to find your organisation and the associated access codes. You can then share these within your organisation.
It’s important to be aware that there will be some groups in our NHS who are more likely to have caring responsibilities, such as our BAME colleagues, or who may need a different approach when it comes to support. You may need to provide a range of approaches in order to ensure that all carers have access to the support they need, in a way which is relevant and culturally appropriate for them. The best way to find out is to ask your carer colleagues what will work for them.
Employers for Carers (EfC) Case studies:
Ruby*, a Midwife currently working in the NHS
I stood nervously outside my manager’s office, clutching the envelope containing my resignation from being a midwife. I took a deep breath and knocked. I couldn’t believe it had come to this – I was leaving a job I loved, a profession I had always dreamt of – because I felt I could no longer cope with work and caring for my son. My son Jack has bipolar and I was his primary carer. I made sure he attended all his appointments and reviews, took his medication, provided emotional support when he was suicidal and helped him clear of his debts when he has spent £1000’s on credit cards. I even collected him from the police station after they had been called by a worried member of the public when he was manic. I was emotionally and physically drained. I was constantly worried about my son and worried my performance in work was not as it should be. I was worried I’d get into trouble for answering my phone on a shift, but I also worried that if I didn’t, Jack would become so anxious he’d spiral back into mania.
As I sat down my manager knew something was wrong immediately – and as I handed her the letter, she asked me what had happened. She sat quietly as I explained how I’d been struggling for months and had no choice but to leave. Telling her what I’d been going through, she was shocked. Not just because of the awful things that had happened, but because I had not come to her. On reflection it had never occurred to me to ask for help, I was a mother and surely this was my job? My manager explained that around 20% of the NHS work forces are juggling working and caring and it was not something that I needed to do alone. In fact there was loads of support available for people in my situation. She told me about the Working Carer’s Passport and explained how this would help me to think about things that would help me balance work and care. She told me about the page on the staff intranet site for working carers and gave me the access code for Employers for Carers Digital Resources. I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders.
Six months later I am writing this after a shift as a midwife. My son is still ill, and I’m still his primary carer, that will never change. But things at work are different, a little bit easier. Most importantly I know I’m not alone and support is there for me.
*All names in this case study have been changed.
West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership (also known as integrated care system)
There are an estimated 260,000 unpaid carers living in West Yorkshire and Harrogate, many of whom are ‘hidden’ and provide the majority of care without formal support. Being a carer can be stressful and have a major impact on your health, relationships, education and employment.
With this in mind we have been working with NHS England to ensure that identifying carers and supporting them is further embedded within our work. This includes developing ways to support the existing and future workforce who balance caring responsibilities, signposting and identifying service standards for all organisations – not just in the public sector – and promoting Employers for Carers membership resources across the area.
More recently the programme has worked with local carer organisations to develop ‘My Coronavirus/Covid-19 ‘Plan B’ which will help carers think about the different ways and people that can help them in an emergency if they look after someone who couldn’t manage without their support. Other initiatives include introducing a flexible working arrangement via the working carers’ passport. This is an agreement between the carer and their manager, on behalf of the organisation. The intention is for the carer to be able to manage their working role alongside their caring responsibilities. It’s a mutual beneficial arrangement, enabling the organisation to maintain staff retention, reduce unplanned absenteeism and to retain the skills they need whilst improving staff morale and loyalty.
Owen Williams Chief Executive Calderdale and Huddersfield Foundation Trust said: ‘We still want to do more work on this but the Working Carers Passport has assisted in what can be a difficult conversation with managers easier, and enabled our carers who balance work and caring to be honest and start to talk about what they need as a carer and employee’.
Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
At Nottinghamshire Healthcare, we believe it’s vital to have the right support in place for all staff, and particularly those who are, or will become carers. Nottinghamshire Healthcare became an Employers for Carers member in January 2020.
The resources are all available digitally and provide a useful tool to promote the importance of supporting working carers and to help us provide a carer-friendly workplace. In March 2020 we were recognised as a Carer Confident Active Employer and the benchmarking scheme has provided a helpful framework for us to develop our support for staff who are also unpaid carers or may become a carer in the future
The award application, was submitted by the Involvement, Experience and Volunteering and the Human Resources Team detailing the support that the Trust offers to carers including a ‘Wellbeing – ‘How are you doing?’ plan, special leave guidance, flexible working guidance and a Carers Connect Network. We were inspired by the Triangle of Care model used successfully within our Trust with dedicated carers leads and links to provide ongoing support to carers.
Clare Teeney, Executive Director of People and Culture, said: “I’m very proud that Nottinghamshire Healthcare has achieved Level 1 Carer Confident accreditation, it’s a brilliant first step and incredibly positive to be recognised for the excellent support we offer to our carers. We very much value our staff who are carers and the contribution they make and want to make sure that the right package of support is available to them. We are also committed to raising awareness of our carers benefits and improving the support we offer.”
Surrey Heartlands CCG Employers for Carers Organisational Case Study – Carers Week 2020
Our journey to become a carer friendly employer started during Carers Week 2019. With the support from our Executive Lead, Vicky Stobbart, and our Surrey Heartlands Independent Carers Lead, Dr Sue Tresman, we launched our staff carers survey the results of which have been the foundation for our ‘supporting staff carers action plan.’
On the 1st April 2020, four Surrey CCGs merged to become the new Surrey Heartlands CCG reflecting our ICS footprint. The Surrey Heartlands CCG Staff Health and Wellbeing Group host our staff carers workstream.
Our action plan is based on the three incremental levels of the ‘Carer Confident’ accreditation scheme. We are delighted to be the first CCG in the country to achieve an ‘Active level’ status but our overall system ambition is to progress this work through a collaborative partnership with Surrey County Council to ensure we achieve carer friendly employment practices across Surrey Heartlands ICS.
The NHS People’s Plan has signalled a clear expectation that the NHS has both a moral and economic imperative to support staff who are also caring. Luckily for us Carers UK’s Employers for Carers service has provided a road map around how this can be achieved.
Surrey Heartlands CCG Staff Carers Case Study – Carers Week 2020
Working and Caring – a Journey.
My journey as a carer has been evolving over time, I have cared for close family members locally and elderly relatives at a distance for many years. I have enjoyed caring for all my family members at these important times in their lives when they are at their most vulnerable, even though it has often been exhausting and challenging juggling caring whilst working full time.
Having a supportive employer has been imperative. This includes having a line manager and HR process that understands the needs of carers which have helped me achieve a more productive work-life balance including looking after my own emotional health and wellbeing needs, whilst still being able to deliver within my role and continue to care for my loved ones.
We are all aware that health appointments can rarely be accommodated around the working day. Having the flexibility to make up worktime later has had a huge positive impact on my wellbeing. This is invaluable where the caring cycle extends due to health necessities.
Isolation during the COVID period has bought with it lots of challenges and new ways of working and caring, and the continued support of my organisation has been very much appreciated.
Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust (Provided by Lisa Duff, OD and Inclusion Facilitator)
“At Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust we engaged with EfC last year, taking out a membership to support our staff after focus groups showed that a lot of our staff could be carers in line with national statistics.
It was a busy year with EfC, we engaged with staff via communications initially and EfC had a stand at our leadership conference which was well received. I worked on meeting people at events and induction to share the EfC message of support and signposting for managers and staff.
We worked up to a host of events over October and November which included drop in sessions across or Trust, with leaflets, information and posters with support of our HR and OD team and also our Carers health team.
These proved very valuable to staff and were often were quite emotive. Some staff attended just to tell their story and some felt emotional about the pressures they were under in different areas of life outside work.
One member of staff attended with her manager so they could find useful solutions during a time of diagnosis and treatment of her husband. The manager was so supportive in helping find a solution to work, without added pressure.
This gave us opportunities to engage with staff about practical ideas for flexible working and balancing work with caring.
We had some great feedback and planned for EfC to come in and see us for a session in November for Carers Rights Day to share information with managers, HR staff and others about moving forward, what we had learnt, and how to support staff.
We have taken out another membership recently for this year, there is lots of good work to be done and we can’t wait to get started in Carers Week in June!”