The term ‘carer’: Love it or hate it?
By Jane Stanfield, Associate Practitioner
Most people do not choose to be a carer. To be a carer means that someone needs your care because of an illness or disability, and of course we wish that was not the case. If you are in the position of providing unpaid care to a family member or friend, what do you think about the title of ‘carer’?
Most will say that they do what they do out of love, out of fidelity to marriage vows (in sickness and in health) or family loyalty. It can be that giving care to someone who once gave care to us is a loving “giving back” to a parent. Because the family is the closest support system we have, some may choose to stick with “husband”, “daughter” or “partner” as the only title they want or need.
However, wider society has a part to play in supporting its more vulnerable members as well, so we have our health and social care systems as well as local community resources to back up what a family gives. This is not to take away the family’s role but to support it, recognising that the whole of society benefits from the work taken on by family carers. The contribution of carers saves the country the equivalent of a second NHS.
It is because of this that the use of the word “carer” should be championed. It highlights that there is such a lot of unseen care going on from which we all benefit. The term “carer” unlocks rights and resources to support a carer such as a carer’s assessment, local carers’ services, rights at work and welfare benefits. At its best it brings collaboration and partnership between practitioners and carers, working together for the benefit of the person being cared for.
The word “carer” is enshrined in legislation, in particular the Care Act 2014. It could be argued that calling paid care workers “carers” blurs the definition between paid employment and the actions of an unpaid family member or friend.
The title “carer” can be put on as an extra hat, on top of the “husband”, “friend” or “daughter” hat. You don’t have to wear it all the time, but sometimes it will be useful to identify you, the contribution you are making and the support to which you may be entitled.