Carer speaks out as county council prepares to launch new strategy

A carer has highlighted the importance of support given the pressure she felt looking after two sons with learning difficulties and a husband with Parkinson’s Disease.

Sue Turner’s testimony to Essex County Council comes as the council prepares to enact a new strategy for the estimated thousands of carers in the county.

The Essex All-Age Carers Strategy 2022-26 has outlined how the county council, along with partners, will support unpaid carers of all ages to undertake the invaluable contribution they make to society.

But Sue said support and respite was key. After the pressure from looking after her two severely dependent sons her mental health dramatically worsened when her husband became ill.

She said: “I suddenly found I couldn’t cope myself, I really couldn’t I was I myself was having panic attacks. I had hardly any sleep and anyway, when it wasn’t my husband disturbing me I couldn’t sleep and I really felt that I was getting like mental illness myself.”

She added poor diagnosis and a failure of the system to provide adequate support has meant her sons are more dependent on adult social care services now than they could have been.

She said: “I have a lovely family, have four really nice sons who now have a good life but it shouldn’t have been as hard as that, everybody thinks oh a lot of those things I said would be in the past you’d be amazed.”

The county council says it is improving its core provision for carers across a range of services – including offering practical assistance for adult carers to include, applying for benefits, form filling, financial planning, and planning for the future.

It also offers counselling, conflict resolution & mediation, face to face and online peer support and wellbeing grants of £500 to provide breaks and outings. Procurement started in September 2023 and providers will start to mobilise new offers in time for an April 2024 launch.

Other developments to improve information, advice, guidance and support include a provision of breaks for carers in which options are being considered.

Essex County councillor John Spence, cabinet member for health and adult social care, said: “It’s making sure not just they can find the door but when they find the door they go through it and get the answer they need and we’ve all understood the frustrations where you go one through one bit and then you’re pointed to somewhere else and it all gets exhausting.”

At present, the council has identified 124,000 though that figure is likely to be much higher. The current reach is around 6,500 per annum which the council wants to increase to at least 14,000 by next year and 42,000 by 2027.

Cllr Spence added: “For me the other challenge is how we engage with far more people without detriment to those who need the most in intense help. So we’ve got to we’ve got to find ways of engaging with more of the people who are carers while not in any way diminishing the support to be given to those who are in greatest need.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter