Unpaid carers are those who provide unpaid support to an ill, older or disabled family member, friend or partner.
There are estimated to be nearly 100,000 people in Norfolk providing unpaid care, which is thought to save local authority and NHS services an estimated £500 million per year. Around 23,200 provide more than 50 hours of care per week.
There are no age bars to unpaid caring.
Nationally, the number of carers aged 85 and over has grown by 128% from 2001 to 2011, and is expected to continue to rise.
But caring is not only a concern for older generations. Increasingly many people are being cared for by their children, themselves at an age when they might have expected care.
A quarter of Norfolk children aged 5-15 are young carers, with some estimates suggesting there could be at least one young carer in every class at school.
The true picture is hard to determine as many young carers are unknown to support services, and as a result are unlikely to be receiving any formal support, with long term implications for their health, education and employment.
Raising awareness of the support available is critical.
A 2017 national survey makes clear the health impacts on carers, who are often themselves affected by isolation, depression and other health concerns. The survey reported that a quarter had not had a day off from caring for more than 5 years, and 3 in 5 reported having a long term health condition. Carers Allowance is the lowest benefit of its kind, leaving households at risk of poverty.
As funding for health and social care continues to decline, there is likely to be increasing pressure on unpaid family carers to fill the gap.
Covers transport for a young carer to access an activity
Covers an hour long counselling session for a carer
Pays for 8 hours of respite care for a carer desperate for a short break
Pays for 15 young adult carers to take part in a day trip or outing to the cinema
Provides practical support for a carer by helping to replace a vital household appliance such as an oven or washing machine