Experiences of caring during the coronavirus pandemic

Your feedback from 2020 suggested that more people were providing care to their loved ones during the pandemic and the changes to services had put extra strain on carers. In 2021, we set out to find out more about the experiences of unpaid carers.
Two women talking on a bench outside a hospital

Together with Northamptonshire Carers and Carers’ Voice Northamptonshire, we asked carers more about their experiences and needs through a survey, interviews and a consultation event.

We heard that the impact of the pandemic on carers was huge, with many working tirelessly and at breaking point, having to do more to meet the physical and emotional needs of those they care for without much support from others or respite. Whilst some have been able to access online support others have felt alone or isolated.

Carers told us that their physical, mental and emotional wellbeing had suffered from the extra strain on them, and many were concerned about the worsening condition of those they care for, exasperated by the reduction in health and care services, the need to stay away from others or the anxiety caused by the pandemic.

These findings are very similar to those reported by Carers UK, showing that the impacts of the pandemic on carers in Northamptonshire are the same as those felt around the UK.

Our report also highlights the support carers need, both during the pandemic and longer term and suggests ways that carers could be supported to recover from this time, and which changes to the way services have been delivered they would like to stay.

Many carers took the time to tell us in detail about the difficulties they have faced during the pandemic, and we are very grateful to them. Whilst we have tried to summarise all that they told us, we have also included many of their insightful quotes so that the voices of carers are heard. We hope we have given carers a voice through this report. As a carer commented:

“I would like to thank you for doing this research. No-one has really asked me how I’ve coped this year caring for my parents. I have muddled along and it is only when I answer your questions that I realise how tough it has been.”

Supporting carers is a team effort involving health services, social care, employers, voluntary sector, education and the wider community. The findings from this work will be shared widely, and with Northamptonshire Carers we will work with partners to support them to act on the recommendations.

The report has already been shared with the main providers of health and care in the county and those that plan and make decisions.

Within the report you can read the responses to the findings and recommendations from the following organisations:

  • Northamptonshire Carers
  • Public Health Northamptonshire
  • West Northamptonshire Council
  • NHS Northamptonshire Clinical Commissioning Group (also on behalf of Primary care and Northamptonshire Health and Care Partnership)
  • Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
  • Kettering General Hospital and Northampton General Hospital

Response to the findings from Northamptonshire Carers

Coronavirus has impacted everyone in Northamptonshire and beyond. For unpaid carers and young carers though, this impact is twofold: not just are they concerned about their own health, wellbeing and in many instances finance but they are also having to consider the person they care for. Our Carers Support Line received many calls from carers who had very complex, risky or worrying challenges. For example, carers who had to juggle working with caring for a loved-one who was clinically vulnerable – if they themselves were vulnerable then their employer would have let them shield from home, but this was not possible to protect the cared-for person. Carers of people with dementia called us in crisis after respite and day care was cancelled or felt nervous about care workers visiting their home when there were concerns about PPE supplies. Parent carers and young carers were disproportionately affected when schools were closed and even when reopened, we spoke to many who were anxious due to health conditions within the family.

This report demonstrates this impact and also highlights what support is needed. Some of this is already in place with a popular menu of online activities to provide a break from caring. We are planning on keeping much of this whilst reopening face-to-face support in-line with guidance. As the report finds, flexibility suits many carers whether it be in the workplace or in terms of delivery of services. This allows an individual approach which best suits a caring role – there are 70,000 carers in Northamptonshire, each with their own circumstances who would benefit from this approach.

Supporting carers is a team effort involving health services, social care, employers, voluntary sector, education and the wider community. In doing so each of these partners also benefits such as reduced reliance of statutory services or absenteeism at school or work. Northamptonshire Carers support the outcomes of this report and will work with partners to deliver upon it. We would like to thank Healthwatch Northamptonshire, Carers’ Voice and everyone who contributed to this comprehensive and insightful report.
— Gwyn Roberts, Chief Operating Officer, Northamptonshire Carers

Read the report and other responses

You can read either the summary report with key findings or the fuller report, which include the key findings as well as more detail about what people told us and how we carried out this project. Both versions of the report include the recommendations and responses from the organisations listed above.

Experiences of caring during the coronavirus pandemic - Summary report with responses
Experiences of caring during the coronavirus pandemic - Full report with responses

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