Those who look after some of the most poorly or frail people in Sunderland are benefiting from the support of a new team offering carer support as part of an innovative city-wide programme.

All Together Better, which provides joined-up health and social care to people in Sunderland with a number of ongoing health conditions, is stepping up support for carers, with dedicated area leads, whose job it is to support those in the community who are looking after their unwell loved one.

The programme draws upon the expertise of Sunderland Carers’ Centre to provide assistance to carers in the city who may need advice or more hands-on support like respite.  The organisation now employs a team of Carer Locality Leads, operating across the five areas of the city, to ensure that people who look after those in most need are not forgotten.

The Carer Locality Leads play a key part in All Together Better Community Integrated Teams (CIT) – multi-disciplinary teams made up of professionals including nurses; social workers and Age UK Sunderland staff – to ensure carers do not go without the support they need to help them cope with the pressures they face day-to-day.

Graham Burt, chief executive officer at Sunderland Carers’ Centre said, “Carers play an invaluable role in supporting unwell people in the city, and take a huge burden off the NHS and social services by simply being there to support their loved ones.

“It is vital that we recognise that they have needs too and they’re not immune to the often crippling pressure they are under as a result of caring for someone day-in-day-out.  The All Together Better programme ensures that carers are given the right support to allow them to carry on their great work.

“We know that many people don’t identify themselves as carers.  They see themselves as just being children, partners, friends or neighbours, just doing what needs to be done to maintain the quality of life of those they love.  This results in many carers being unaware of the benefits that are actually available to them and the person they’re caring for, so through the Carer Locality Leads, we are able to help them assess their situation and point them in direction of services and support that may be of benefit.”

He added: “The Care Locality Leads can also help them with training and guidance to learn more about the condition of the person they look after, so they are fully aware of what to do if their condition changes unexpectedly and coping mechanisms if they find they are struggling.”

The Carer Locality Leads are based out in the community, but are part of Sunderland Carers’ Centre, which was set up specifically to help those who look after someone, and who may need a range of support services to assist them. This can include help such as offering a Carers Assessment; courses to help carers; support at meetings with health or social care professionals, as well as introductions to groups and social activities which can be a huge relief for people who are providing round-the-clock care.

Kerry McQuade, head of delivery at All Together Better, said: “All Together Better was set up to support some of the frailest people in Sunderland.  However, more often than not, there will be a carer standing behind that person, providing the day-to-day support that keeps them well enough to live independently and remain out of hospital.  We must care for carers.

“The Carer Locality Leads, as part of All Together Better, offer friendly and informal support to those who are looking after an unwell loved one who is being cared for by this new joined-up team.  It might be just a one-off talk over a coffee or something more frequent if they access the sessions on offer at the Carers’ Centre.

“The support doesn’t have to be accepted, but carers are often relieved when they do, and can be surprised at how much help and advice is available to help them with their caring role.”

For more information about the Care Locality Leads, or the All Together Better programme, visit  www.atbsunderland.org.uk; find All Together Better on Facebook and @atbsunderland on Twitter.

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