Thousands of Wiganers are looking after relatives under the authorities’ radar as part of what is effectively a “hidden” workforce, a local government report says.
The Health and Wellbeing Board’s latest update on supporting carers across Greater Manchester shows there are around 36,000 informal carers in the borough, but fewer than 10,000 of them are registered with organisations dedicated to supporting them.
The report says it is determined to ensure carers receive help for their roles and everyone looking after someone close to them in Wigan gets the support promised by the Greater Manchester Carers’ Charter.
Currently the picture for carers in the borough is somewhat mixed, the report says, with numerous things being done well to support them but areas identified which clearly require improvement.
Wigan Council is creating a new Deal for Carers to build on the one which has been in place since 2014 and has been asking for the pros and cons of the current system.
Deputy leader Coun Keith Cunliffe said: “We acknowledge the key role that people with a caring responsibility play in supporting residents.
“We are looking to refresh our current carer offer to ensure it suits local need.
“We strive to be a carer-friendly borough and will work in partnership to provide wraparound support to this invaluable community.”
The council works with Wigan and Leigh Carers’ Centre and Wigan and Leigh Young Carers to deliver the majority of services to those looking after family members.
Investment has broadened the scope of the organisations to include carers’ assessment, GP liaisons, care prevention and support service, information advice and guidance and transition support.
Workshops have been held to recognise what currently works well for carers and what could be better.
Carers told the authorities their backgrounds and assets were not recognised or undervalued and they did not always receive the right support at the right time, meaning issues flagged up had passed by the time a response was ready.
Hospitals also do not recognise the difficulties carers face in arranging things like getting home from hospital, particularly when patients are being discharged, it was claimed.
Caring is also eating into people’s lives, with opportunities to enjoy leisure time at weekends and evenings severely limited and respite breaks being hard to plan. Holidays suitable for carers are also scarce and expensive.
Carers also struggle to find support after bereavement and to hold down jobs.
But the workshops also found a wide range of peer support groups in the borough and Community Book enables carers to find local activities.
Carers also liked the buddy system provided by Wigan and Leigh Carers’ Centre and the support in general from the organisation was praised.
Having allocated workers with mobile phone contacts rather than going through the switchboard also got the thumbs-up, as did carers getting priority for blood tests when they were ill.
The Greater Manchester Carers’ Charter was formally launched in Wigan last summer and everyone there committed to implementing it.