Katherine Wilson is head of employment for Carers UK. Katherine runs their ‘Employers for Carers’ forum, which helps employers support the carers in their workforces. She also runs the ‘Carer Confident’ scheme, the first UK-wide employer benchmarking scheme of its kind to recognise and accredit UK employers who have built carer friendly and inclusive workplaces.
“A right to Carer’s leave – preferably paid – so that carers in employment can focus on providing care when they need to could make all the difference for a swathe of workers. Many people end up reducing their hours or giving up work altogether, at a huge cost to their finances and career.”
The fulfilment of being a carer
My specialism is in the field of employment and equality and diversity where I have worked across the private, public and voluntary sectors including at Leeds University Business School and the Trades Union Congress.
Carers UK is the national membership charity for people looking after relatives or friends who have a disability, mental or physical illness or needs that arise from growing older.
We campaign for better recognition and support for carers. We provide knowledge, insight and carry out unique research to help campaign for change, offering a solid evidence base to policymakers. We run the national advice and information service for carers and provide specialist advice, along with tailored digital tools that help support carers with their caring role.
From my personal experience, I think the best part of being a carer is the greater empathy and understanding gained from caring.
It’s not only the practical skills and experience developed through things like dealing with sudden health crises or arranging longer-term care and support, but more importantly, becoming more appreciative of others and more compassionate as a human being.
Traditionally women have taken on caring roles within families, but all of us, both men and women alike, have a 50:50 chance of caring by the age of 50.
With our ageing population and loved ones with disabilities living for longer, caring is something that will touch all of us at some point in our lives.
How you can support carers
There is a UK Government consultation to give carers a week of unpaid leave per year. This consultation is so important for working-age carers, many of them women. Juggling work and care can be incredibly demanding, and for some trying to manage the two becomes too much. Many people end up reducing their hours or giving up work altogether, at a huge cost to their finances and career.
A right to Carer’s leave – preferably paid – so that carers in employment can focus on providing care when they need to could make all the difference for a swathe of workers.
If Carer’s leave would help you better manage your job and caring, let the Government know! We’ve compiled some instructions specifically for carers to help you respond to the consultation.
You could also speak to your employer about introducing carer’s leave, or bringing in carer-inclusive policies like flexible working or a carers’ network.
We want to help carers through COVID-19
We know that the majority of carers are having to provide more care during the pandemic.
With some care and support services having been reduced or closed for safety reasons, some carers are now caring round the clock and struggling to get a break. It has been a very worrying and stressful time for carers who have seen their health and wellbeing impacted.
Our focus right now is on helping carers through the pandemic, getting them access to breaks, getting care and support services reinstated as soon as possible, and campaigning for better financial support to help carers with the increased costs associated with caring. You can find out more about our work at www.carersuk.org/news-and-campaigns/campaigns