This is Carers Week, which aims to raise awareness of the vital contribution made by carers to their families and communities in providing unpaid care for someone who needs their support.
Across the Highlands and Islands, more than 12,000 people receive Carers’ Allowance but the number of people caring for others is much greater as not everyone claims this allowance.
Often people have to juggle full or part-time work while caring for someone, while others find themselves having to give up paid employment in order to fulfil the role.
Connecting Carers, part of the Highland Community Care Forum, provides a range of serves and connects carers to information, advice, advocacy, training and support.
Service manager Tina Morrow said: “Many carers in Highland suffer due to a lack of understanding about what they do – some don’t even recognise themselves as carers.
“This can have a real and negative impact on their health, finances, working and social life and general wellbeing.”
Dwynwen Hopcroft, information co-ordinator said: “Our definition of a carer is a person of any age who is not paid in an employed role, but provides physical care or emotional support to another person due to frailty, physical or mental illness, addiction, disorder or disability.
“People tend to come to us through GPs, NHS services or social work when they are at a crisis point in their lives, so we are trying to raise awareness of the caring that takes place in the Highlands to encourage people to self-identify, so hopefully we can provide support at an earlier stage and prevent them reaching crisis point.
“We provide the information line which answers questions about benefits, housing, local regulations etc, and have late-night sessions to support carers who are also working full-time.
“We have also rolled out a training programme which is delivered in various villages and towns across the Highlands and Islands which helps people who are new to caring to get to grips with this new environment they are in.
“This helps them to navigate the first few weeks of form-filling, terminology etc.
“A lot of carers find they have to give up work so the Caring with Confidence course helps them re-assess changes in circumstances.”
Several events designed to raise awareness have taken place this week, but the grand finale takes place in the Kingsmills Hotel, Inverness on Sunday, June 24, from noon-4pm.
“It is really a family fun day out but is also aimed at young carers aged under 21,” said Dwynwen.
“We are bringing together a host of businesses while there will be lots of information on the support they can get from employers and other organisations.”
For further details, or to find out more about what your rights are, both as an employee and employer, call the carers’ information line on 01463 723560 or visit www.carersweek.org