Feature: The Harrogate drive to help carers find employment

Stella Elson with The Carers' Resource computer group which uses redundant laptops for carers' training and working and helping older people at risk of isolation. (S)
Stella Elson with The Carers' Resource computer group which uses redundant laptops for carers' training and working and helping older people at risk of isolation. (S)

For the 15,000 people in Harrogate caring for a loved one, finding employment can be one of the most difficult aspects of the challenges they face as a carer.

Approximately one in eight carers are struggling to juggle work and caring - in itself a full time job - and it is estimated that around 315,000 carers in the UK who have left their job are still out of work.

The Carers' Resource director Anne Smyth. (S)

The Carers' Resource director Anne Smyth. (S)

An organisation specifically targeting the issue of losing carers in the workplace, which costs around £1.3billion a year, The Carers’ Resource in Harrogate has a programme dedicated to helping carers keep their job and get back into work if they have left through the CReate (Carers’ Resource employment advice and training enterprises) initiative.

Stella Elson is the service manager for CReate and has worked on training and employment for unpaid carers for 13 years.

“It is in everybody’s interest to support carers in the work place, and there is evidence to show that with that support businesses do see increased productivity,” she said.

“It is a high priority of the government at the moment and they are saying businesses should give carers support.”

CReate offers carers a three strand approach to support carers to recognise and achieve their goals.

The first is to motivate them to realise what it is they want to accomplish, whether that is looking for a job or retraining. The second is to offerthat training in-house.

The final strand of the project is to provide support to employers, reaching beyond the individual carer to their environment. CReate compiles a training pack for businesses and companies to help them support carers in the workplace and keep valiable members of staff in work.

Stella said: “Usually this means a small tweak, then businesses can keep very skilled members of staff and won’t have to pay to recruit and train someone else.

“In reality some people are not going to get quickly back into work and are set up to fail, so we offer one to one support for people, whatever they are looking for.

“The support is very holistic and we make sure they are fully informed about what is available to them. It is also very focused and we work alongside carers to help them achieve their own goals.”

The effect of losing carers in the workplace can be worse for businesses than they might realise, and the training pack they receive points out the importance of supporting carers at work so they can stay.

And there are some staggering facts associated with carers that highlight the necessity of helping them return to work.

There are 175,000 carers in the UK under 18, meaning they may never have had a job, and the peak age of caring is 45 to 64, which is when most people are at the peak of their career.

Though The Carers’ Resource’s initial goal was to provide the information and support carers need to be able to care as effectively as they can.

After working with carers extensively on their concerns, the organisation recognised that employment was a key issue and one they could do something about.

Director at The Carers’ Resource Anne Smyth said: “It was initially about letting carers know everything that is available to them that could help them with caring.

“The more we did that the more we became aware that there is another issue - that a carer is a person in their own right and has hobbies and aspirations too, so we started looking at how we could work on that side.

“This work has developed with a succession of small contracts which have grown and grown as Stella and her team have indicated the need for it.”

Initially known as Changing Lives, the CReate project still has this at its heart - changing the lives of carers for the betterby helping them get back to the normal life they really want.

This can mitigate the feelings of isolation so often associated with carers who are used to putting their needs and concerns behind those of the people they are caring for.

Anne said: “It isn’t all about elderly isolation. For example young parents after the birth of a child with special needs can be affected, because the one parent who has to stay at home to look after the needs of the child can feel isolated.”

As more employers take up the call to support carers at work, benefiting by keeping a member of staff with the knowledge and skills to effectively do their job, it is hoped that carers will feel more fulfilled and less isolated, and will be able to return to their daily life.

Anne said: “We are coming to the stage with the demographic changes that there is a growing number of people in the work place who are caring, and the work force is aging and the population is aging, so there is good sense to it.

l Are you a carer? Have you taken part in CReate? Share your story: email news@harrogateadvertiser.co.uk