The 10th - 16th June is Carers' Week 2019. Presently, around one in ten people in Britain are carers, supporting a loved one who is older, disabled or seriously ill.

Being a carer is demanding and can often affect a person’s health and wellbeing as well as their ability to work or study; and caring without the right information and support can be hard. This is no different in Harrow. Help is available, and we at Harrow Mencap offer support initiatives such as the Elevate Carers group.

Elevate Carers brings carers together and helps to build their resilience by giving them an opportunity to share experiences and advice – for more information please contact 020 8423 7382 or [email protected].   

Keen to share her story, we sat down with Shelley who has been a carer for over 20 years since her son was diagnosed as on the autistic spectrum at three years old. We asked her about four things you might not know about life as a carer.

 

What’s the best thing about being a carer?

 

The best thing is seeing my son happy really, that’s definitely the best thing because you just have to make sure he’s happy.

 

What’s the most difficult thing about caring for someone else?

 

I think the most difficult thing for me has been juggling it with work because I work as well. I’m not working so much now, I do 9 hours a week, but there was a time for the last couple of years I’d been doing four days a week and that was very difficult because I can’t leave him on his own, so I have to make sure there’s someone here to look after him. So that for me has been the most difficult, juggling work because the thing is, if a paid carer doesn’t turn up, it’s me that has to step in.

 

Is there anything unusual that somebody might not know about carers?

 

We’re interesting people. When people say the word “carer” they think of somebody shuffling along in beige clothes who doesn’t really take part in the world, but caring is only part of who we are. It is the most important part because you’re looking after somebody you love, but there’s more to people than just that label. I think that’s important for people to know. It’s like the word “disabled” you have an image of a disabled person and even that word makes you think of physical disabilities but people who are “disabled” are so different from each other that they’re people first.

 

Have you been able to get much support as a carer?

 

We have had some support from the local council and family members, but I don’t get carer’s allowance because I work. Since last Christmas we have had a support worker from Harrow Mencap who comes two days a week and helps my son to work as a volunteer at a school canteen. He puts the tables out at lunch time and clears them away again afterwards. He goes to the school, sets up for lunch, comes back, and then goes back to the school again, puts it all away and comes home. Thanks to Harrow Mencap it means that instead of whizzing back and forth between 11:30 and 13:30, I can sit here, have a cup of coffee and relax. I work evenings so it’s a long day otherwise, it’s been such a help, it’s been fantastic.