Wigan's hero carers are celebrated for their graft and dedication in special campaign

Carers across the borough were recognised when their efforts – and the rewards that come with working in care – were highlighted during a special campaign.

Wigan Council used the You Can Care initiative to shine a light on the difference made by carers and how to get involved with supporting vulnerable people.

All different kinds of carers have always been needed in Wigan, including adopters and foster carers, volunteers, social workers and carers for the elderly.

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But the coronavirus pandemic has made these roles even more vital as people adapt their lives.

Foster carers Mark and CharleneFoster carers Mark and Charlene
Foster carers Mark and Charlene

Stories of how these people have helped were shared by the local authority, along with information for anyone considering a career change, wanting to make a difference or even grow their own family.

Among those celebrated in the campaign were couple Charlene and Mark, who have been foster carers for more than 10 years.

They are part of the council’s pioneering Mockingbird programme, which involves being in a group with other foster carers to benefit from an extended network of family support.

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Encouraging other people to follow in her footsteps, Charlene said: “Fostering will be the best decision you will ever make. It is a unique experience and totally different to caring for your own children, but with the right skills and knowledge you will wonder why it took you so long to make the decision.

Shared Lives champion Simon BrooksShared Lives champion Simon Brooks
Shared Lives champion Simon Brooks

“It isn’t an easy journey at the beginning but I can honestly say I have found my vocation in life. Seeing the children smiling and loving every experience you give them is all the reward I need. I am looking forward to the next 10 years of my fostering journey. Are you joining me?”

Volunteer Simon Brooks is a champion for Shared Lives, working with adults who need support due to disability, age, illness or social isolation.

He moved to Leigh three years ago and after leaving his job as a social worker, he wanted to do something similar on a voluntary basis.

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Simon helps people engage in community activities that they had struggled with, giving them confidence to go out and socialise.

He said: “I always say it’s like going to the pub with friends or going to a club or going for a walk. It’s no different to what I do with my friends and I don’t treat people any differently, I show them the same kind of respect. We have a bit of banter, we have a bit of fun.”

Simon recommended that other people consider becoming Shared Lives champions, as he believes everyone has something to offer and it can be rewarding.

Social workers play an important role is caring and supporting families across the borough, so people are being encouraged to consider looking into it as a career.

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Service lead Leah, who moved to Wigan 14 years ago, said: “What’s kept me in Wigan is the people. There’s a real community feel, everyone’s so kind and friendly and welcoming, and it really makes you feel at home as soon as you are here.”

Social worker Claire said: “The best thing about my job is seeing the direct impact that you have on children’s lives. It’s nice to know that I can make a difference in different families’ lives, for now and in the future, and being able to see the difference that we can make when we all work together as a team.”

Principal social worker Rebecca said: “Since coming to Wigan I have never looked back. It’s a very, very supportive and very, very friendly borough and it’s a lovely, lovely place to work.”

Social worker Linda said: “My job, the thing I like best is when I see something going well. So you might have a family that’s in a bit of a crisis point and they are really struggling, things are not really going very well, tempers are frayed, especially at the moment with coronavirus, that puts a lot of pressure on families. The best bit of my job is going in and just being there for families and helping them out and helping them see ways that they can almost help themselves.”

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Another career option for people to consider is personal assistants (PA), who provide a lifeline to others.

People who receive a personal budget may have a physical or learning disability or other health condition which means they need support with their day-to-day needs. Find out more at greatermanchesterpa.org.uk.

For more information about the You Can Care campaign and the different types of caring roles available, go to www.wigan.gov.uk/Resident/Health-Social-Care/You-Can-Care

Support for the many unpaid carers around the borough is available through Wigan and Leigh Carers Centre, which recently merged with Wigan and Leigh Young Carers.

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It can offer all kinds of help, from advice on caring and finances to companionship..

The charity wants young carers to get involved in a project entitled Caring Hands - I Am A Young Carer, which aims to give them a voice in the form of a creative handprint.

All of the handprints will feature in a short video reflecting the thoughts and feelings of young carers in Wigan and a small gift will be given to everyone who gets involved.

It is part of Young Carers Action Day 2021, which takes place on March 16 and is organised by the Carers Trust. Find out more on the carers centre’s Facebook page.

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To help keep people safe, the council is working with the carers centre to distribute PPE to unpaid carers in the borough, including to people who do not live with those they care for.

It has been available since the beginning of the pandemic and stocks have now been replenished. To access, contact the carers centre via social media or call 01942 705959.

Together For Adoption is looking for people interested in growing their family who can give a stable and loving home to siblings.

Adoption is a way of providing the security, love and permanence of a new family for children who can no longer be cared for by their birth families.

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On average, the adoption process takes less than eight months with Together For Adoption. However, every application to adopt is treated individually.

To find out more, go to www.togetherforadoption.co.uk.

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