Care is both a physical and an emotional activity. It is a basic, universal human need which is integral to the human experience throughout life (Daly & Standing, 2001). Care-giving is increasingly becoming a common activity in which we are all implicated (Glendinning & Kemp, 2006). In the United Kingdom (UK) each year over 2.1 million adults become carers and almost as many people find that their caring responsibilities come to an end (Carers UK, 2014). The 6.5 million carers in the UK are made up of 58% female and 42% male carers; 10% of informal carers are from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities (600,000) (England/Wales) and 178,000 are young carers (under 18) (ONS, 2011).
Care is an active process which takes place within the context of a relationship between the person in need of support AND the person providing care. According to the UK National Carer Strategy (Department of Health, 2008) a carer spends a significant proportion of their life providing unpaid support to family or potentially friends. This could be caring for a relative, partner or friend who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental health or substance misuse problems. A young carer is anyone under the age of 18 carrying out caring duties for a family member. 3 in 5 people will be carers at some point in their lives.
Informal care is:
- Generally unpaid
- A voluntary ‘informal’ arrangement
- Made up of carers who may not be trained
- Unregulated by the state
- Given by carers who already know the person in need of support:
E.g. Relatives, spouses, partners, friends, neighbours
Good care can be recognised as promoting individual wellbeing. This can be achieved through giving choice to those who are cared for by those who are in a caring role. Also, people need control over their own lives and need to be treated with dignity and respect.
Poor care can be recognised as those who are cared for having a lack of privacy and experiencing a lack of dignity. They may also experience abuse, neglect and also face death.
Support for informal carers
A range of support is available to informal and young carers:
- A carer’s assessment is an opportunity to discuss with your local council what support or services you need. The assessment will look at how caring affects your life, including for example, physical, mental and emotional needs, and whether you are able or willing to carry on caring (See Carers UK for more information).
- Replacement care is designed to replace the care that you, as a carer, would normally be giving the person you care for. It may be needed so you can look after your own health and wellbeing, and to take a break from caring. For example, it may be that regular replacement overnight care is needed so you can catch up on your own sleep (NHS, 2016). In certain situations, respite (temporary) care may be provided by your local authority after your carer’s assessment or after the person you care for has had an assessment. You can use the directory of local carers’ services to find your nearest local carers’ centre or respite service. Your local authority or local carers’ centre can give you information about local support (See NHS Choices for more information).
- Young carers – a social worker from your local authority must visit to carry out a “young carers needs assessment” to decide what kind of help you and your family might need if you or your parents request this (See NHS Choices for more information).
Informal care is performed at home by family, friends and/or neighbours and/or by volunteers. If you need more information on informal care, then please click on these organisations links below: