6 to 12 June is Carers Week, the annual campaign to celebrate unpaid carers and caring, highlight the challenges they face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK.
Unpaid carers are undoubtedly one of the groups in society that have suffered most through the pandemic and are now being hit by the growing cost of living crisis. Many went for many months or longer with no help or break. At the height of the pandemic, Carers Scotland warned that unpaid carers were being “pushed to breaking point” with additional pressures placed on social care.
In response to these difficulties, which continue for many despite the progress made on Covid, the aim for carers organisations and groups during Carers Week is to come together to make caring Visible, Valued and Supported. This awareness raising is vitally important and goes to the heart of the week. Decision-makers and others in public life have an important duty to help ensure that carers are listened to and policies and services put in place to support them and those they care for.
Last month Scottish Labour led a debate in the Scottish Parliament on supporting carers through the cost of living crisis. Among the policy calls we made on the Scottish Government were an end to all non-residential care charges and implementation of a strategy for unpaid carers, including the restoration and expansion of respite services, with entitlements to short breaks and wellbeing services.
This is important not only because it is the right thing to do and because carers deserve to get the support and services they need, but also because the support that unpaid carers provide is worth nearly £11 billion to the Scottish economy each year. Without this significant contribution, our social care services would be under even greater pressure.