THEY plough their efforts into caring for others – for family and friends suffering from illness, disability, old age or drug and alcohol problems.
But sometimes our city’s army of unpaid carers need to take a well-earned break for their own health and well-being.
A new photographic exhibition at The Place in Sunniside is a celebration of “Time Well Earned,” whether it be a carer climbing Tunstall Hill or having a moment to themselves.
The idea is the brainchild of photography student at Cleveland College of Art and Design, Daniel Dale, who approached Sunderland Carers’ Centre in Southwick to sound out his ideas and to put him in contact with carers, the subjects of his photographs.
He said: “My initial idea was to document the hobbies and interests of carers as a distinct group of people.
“I only had a vague idea about what carers do, but as soon as I started meeting them I was struck by the hard work, time and dedication they give to looking after others.
“It became obvious their time out from caring to enjoy their hobbies and interests was so precious to them all.”
Daniel added: “Setting up the appointments to photograph the carers really brought home the reality of their caring roles to me, the way they had to fit our meetings around the needs and appointments of the people they look after.
“I have never been in a caring position myself and I couldn’t comprehend the demands on carers’ time until I started the project. When I had to think of the name for the exhibition ‘Time Well Earned’ seemed to fit the bill perfectly and I hope it inspires other carers to start thinking about taking a break.”
Sheila Scott project manages a Carers’ Breaks and Opportunities Scheme at the Carers Centre and in the last year and a half has helped nearly 700 carers take a much-needed break or opportunity.
She explains why the exhibition is such a great idea: “The exhibition is a great opportunity to show carers taking well–deserved breaks by pursing their own hobbies and interests which are very personal to them.
“Caring for someone can take over someone’s life, so these hobbies or interests often get pushed to the sidelines.
“When carers come to us to ask about the type of break or opportunity they can take we really encourage them to think creatively and focus on what would work for them as an individual.
“Every carer and caring situation is different so restricting carers to specific breaks or activities just wouldn’t work.”
She added: “I hope the exhibition encourages more carers to take advantage of Carers’ Breaks and Opportunities Scheme. It is a free service and the decision to fund a break or opportunity is based on the carer’s individual circumstances, not their income.
“Carers will need to meet some eligibility criteria before they can apply for a grant but they can contact us at the Carers’ Centre and we can help with this, it isn’t a difficult process at all.”
* Time Well Earned is running in the gallery at The Place, in Athenaeum Street, until December 14.
The gallery is open Monday to Thursday, 9am to 4.30pm and on Friday 9am to 3.30pm. As well as viewing the exhibition, carers can pick up information about the Carers Breaks and Opportunities Scheme.
THE scheme is available to all carers across Wearside and from all caring situations.
Carers are encouraged to think of their own break or opportunity, the focus is on meeting their individual needs.
In the past carers have taken gym memberships, received fishing equipment, short breaks, relaxing therapies and more as part of a break from their role.
* 98 per cent of carers who have used the scheme said their break or opportunity allowed them to pursue their own interest or to spend more time with friends and family.
* 99 per cent of carers their said their break or opportunity alleviated stress.
* 97 per cent of carers said it was easier to continue with their caring role as a result of the scheme.
If you want to find out more about the scheme contact Sheila Scott at Sunderland Carers’ Centre on Tel. 549 3768.