• Saturday, June 25, 2022

HEADLINE STORY

‘It’s time Britain started caring for our carers’

Analysis has found women tend to take on caring responsibilities a decade earlier than men

By: Lauren Codling

by LAUREN CODLING

AN ASIAN carer has urged for more support from the government, including introducing paid leave for care givers, as figures showed two in three adults could be providing care free of charge in their lifetime.

The analysis, published by charity Carers UK last month, also found women tend to take on caring responsibilities a decade earlier than men.

Ravi, from London, has been caring on and off for her elderly father for more than 25 years. In recent years, her caring role has intensified after her father suffered a heart attack in 2007 and a stroke in 2018. Ravi, in her 50s, now lives with him to provide the care he requires. Previously working full-time as a residential social worker, she is now on sick leave due to hemiplegic migraines – which she believes are down to her stressful responsibilities as a carer.

However, Ravi has found it particularly difficult to navigate her working day around her father’s routine. Currently, she has to leave work early in the morning to administer his medication and then return to her job. She regularly has to take annual leave to attend his medical appointments.

In light of the report, Ravi has urged the government to offer more support to carers including paid carer’s leave. She has also called for more flexible working hours for carers.

Ravi has been looking after her father on and off for 26 years

“(My routine means I have) an incredibly long day, especially given I’m up by 5:30am and I won’t go to sleep until 11:30pm ,” she told Eastern Eye. “But having flexible hours, when you can work a shorter shift and then make those hours up somewhere else or be able to take time off without being penalised for attending an appointment, would be extremely helpful.”

Echoing similar sentiments, Helen Walker, chief executive of Carers UK, said the government needs to address the ‘gender care gap’ by giving carers a right of five to ten days of paid care leave.

“It must also prioritise sustainable, long-term investment in our social care system so that millions of people caring for loved ones can stay in work and look after their own health,” Walker recommended.

Ravi, whose mother has passed away, gets no support from her family. However, the British Asian believes there was an “expectation” for her to look after her father due to her culture.

The 2011 Census showed that there were just under 600,000 BAME carers in England and Wales.

“There is definitely (an expectation) in the Asian community,” she said. “I am the eldest as well, so was expected to take over.”

Figures showed that there were just under 600,000 BAME carers in England and Wales

At times, Ravi has felt unable to cope and has asked for help. However, she claimed to have felt a “push-back” from authorities. For instance, when she asked for district nurses to help with her father’s insulin in the evening, Ravi claimed she was “met with resistance”. The strain of caring for her father has had a direct impact on Ravi’s health – alongside the recent diagnosis of hemiplegic migraines, she was also off work sick for four months with shingles last year.

As well as her ill health, Ravi has little time for herself and admitted she has not taken a holiday in four years.

Most of her day is spent “clock-watching”, as she works her day around her father’s routine. Although he is visited by carers during the day, Ravi has to administer his medication, arrange his appointments, act as his advocate, as his stroke has affected his speech, in addition to chores such as preparing his meals and taking care of the household.

“It has hit me really hard, especially in the last few months,” she revealed. “My health has really taken a knock and I believe it is down to stress and because I’m on the go all the time.”

Looking forward, Ravi would like to see the government take the issue more seriously as she claimed the funding cuts to social care services have had a major impact. She has also recommended more support groups be set up specifically for BAME carers.

“We are lacking in the way information is given out,” she said. “I’m resourceful in that I will look things up, ask people or I know information due to my work (in social care), but there are people who don’t have that. There needs to be more education within the Asian community, so they know where to go for information and for help.”

For more, see: www.carersuk.org

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