This week is Carers Week and it’s always a fantastic opportunity to thank our wonderful unpaid carers and the amazing contribution that they make to communities across the country, including all of those right here in Tameside.

There are around 9.1 million carers across the country, who look after a relative or a friend who needs extra help, whether due to age, disability or illness. This is an incredibly difficult and important job at the best of times, but arguably never more so than now.

The Coronavirus pandemic has not just increased the pressures on many existing carers, but has also added greatly to their number. During this period, the number of unpaid carers has increased to 13.6 million people. In other words, around 1 in every 4 people in Britain are currently providing unpaid care for their loved ones.

These carers are an incredibly diverse bunch; young and old, male and female, rich and poor. What they have in common is that they selflessly give up their time to help others and we should all be incredibly grateful.

Research shows that unpaid carers face all sorts of challenges; not just the impact on their mental health, dealing with the stress and responsibility of caring and the time commitments that caring can involve, but also the physical demands and the impact that it can have on their paid work.

Too often, the amazing work that unpaid carers do is forgotten or ignored, which is why Carers Week is so very important. It gives us all an opportunity to think about what unpaid carers do and give thanks. This increased awareness is great, but I think we should also think a bit more about how we – as a society – can help our unpaid carers.

We have seen some of this during this crisis, as supermarkets found ways of helping carers where possible, but there is much more that can and should be done. For me, this would include properly funding the social care sector to take some of the pressure off unpaid carers and to provide more financial support to them.

The theme of this week’s Carers Week is ‘Make Caring Visible’ and I couldn’t agree more. Unpaid carers are unsung heroes and it’s about time that they start to get the acknowledgement that they have long deserved.

To any carers reading this, thank you so much for all you do.

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