Wearside Matters: Sunderland Carers’ Centre backs political support pledge

Graham Burt, chief executive officer at Sunderland Carers Centre.
Graham Burt, chief executive officer at Sunderland Carers Centre.
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A Sunderland charity boss has welcomed a Labour Party proposal to provide greater support to carers and urged all parties to recognise the country’s ‘unsung heroes’.

Graham Burt, chief executive of Sunderland Carers’ Centre, has applauded Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s pledge to provide an additional £10 a week to carers, and said all party leaders should follow his lead.

Sunderland Carers’ Centre supports more than 8,000 carers of all ages from across the city but estimates that there could be as many as 70,000 to 90,000 carers in Sunderland alone.

Mr Burt, who describes carers as ‘ordinary people who do extraordinary things for their friends or family’, said that more must be done to assist a group of people who are often taking huge pressure off public resources. 

He said: “Carers are not only some of the most selfless people, they are also the unpaid nurse, support worker and companion of some of the most vulnerable people in our society, saving millions of pounds in public resources by keeping their loved one well and out of the health system and hospital.

“In Sunderland, we know that a huge number of people still don’t identify as being a carer; they just see themselves as doing their duty for the people they love or care for.

“The result is that many go without the right support at the right time, often waiting for a crisis before seeking help or support.

“This can, and often does, lead to ill health for the carer themselves because of the emotional and physical strain they face.”

Mr Burt believes it is not only ‘morally right’ to support carers, but that it makes good economic sense.

“Carers are often juggling working with caring, so their economic contribution to society goes beyond just the savings to the health service.

“However, often carers are faced with a dilemma if they are not properly supported by their employers, and some feel their only choice is to leave employment, more than 40 percent of whom will never re-enter work.

“Anything that can be done to provide greater support for carers will make a difference and we applaud the commitment from Labour to do more.

“More parties must follow Labour’s lead and recognise the vital role carers play in our society.”

Mr Corbyn made his pledge just hours before Conservative Prime Minister Teresa May called a snap election on June 8, which will need to be agreed to by more than two thirds of MPs in a vote today.

Mr Corbyn said: “Britain’s social care crisis was made in Downing Street by cutting £4.6billion from council care budgets.

“Millions of unpaid carers have been forced to fill the gap and put under even greater pressure as a result.

“The care they give to the disabled, sick and elderly saves taxpayers £132billion a year.

“So we believe these unsung, unpaid heroes not only deserve our praise and recognition – they deserve better financial support.”

Sunderland Carers’ Centre, based in Thompson Road, provides a listening ear and a range of advice and practical support to carers from across the city.

This can include an assessment of how caring for someone is affecting their own health and wellbeing.

It is supported by Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Sunderland City Council, and as a registered charity also relies on support from private donations to continue to deliver support to Sunderland’s carers.

To find out more about Sunderland Carers’ Centre, visit www.sunderlandcarers.co.uk or follow @SunderlandCarers.