“We now all have a taste of what it is like to be isolated”

Kerry Mallaby is a carers development worker at Liverpool Carers Centre, run by Local Solutions and commissioned by Liverpool City Council.

The team supports carers across Liverpool with assessments, a health and wellbeing programme and access to breaks from their caring role through the Mytime initiative.

During Carers Week, 8–14 June, Kerry explores how lockdown has given many of us a sense of how isolated unpaid carers can feel.

Carer development worker Kerry Mallaby

I am a carers development worker with Liverpool Carers Centre, working with unpaid carers across the city. We complete carers assessments and make sure that a carer’s own needs are met and that they are made aware about the huge amount of support that is available to them. I’ve been employed at the Carers Centre for three and a half years and I really enjoy the work and the different aspects to the role.

I am immensely proud to work for Local Solutions and I am proud of how hard the Carers Centre team strives to do the best they possibly can. Even in the pandemic where we’ve had to change the way we operate, we have pulled out all the stops to ensure that our carers are still receiving the same quality of support that they were before the crisis. We’ve been offering our carers assessments by phone and moved our health and wellbeing activities online.

‘Making Caring Visible’ is the theme for this year’s National Carers Week. Many carers already struggle with feeling invisible and this has been exacerbated by the lockdown, as a large number are shielding to protect the person they care for.

We have all joined in with clap for the NHS and ‘carers’ and this is wholeheartedly deserved — however, the term ‘carers’ in this case has implied those who are paid in their role. Yes, those carers are doing a brilliant job helping vulnerable people in our communities, but this week is about highlighting the invaluable work of unpaid carers — who dedicate their time in supporting a family member, spouse, friend or neighbour.

From my role as a carers development worker, I know carers who have supported their loved one for many years focusing on the job in hand, day in, day out — their work invisible to wider society. Many carers find their role isolating, which I find very sad. Carers tell me that the invites to go for a drink, the cinema or shopping dry up… then the phone calls end. Eventually they haven’t spoken to another soul for ages — apart from the odd consultant or GP. Unpaid carers have learned over the years to live with being invisible, at times their needs become buried so deep those are invisible too.

That’s where we come in at the Carers Centre. We support people to identify their needs, empower them to acknowledge those needs and find ways they can prioritise them while balancing their caring responsibilities.

Kerry and colleague Paul Ainger, health and wellbeing officer, take part in an abseil in 2019 to raise support funds for carers

I think the lockdown restrictions have highlighted to many more of us what it feels like to be really isolated. It’s given us a greater empathy towards other people who may not have contact with their family, friends and colleagues. For most of us, this isolation will only be temporary. It is a moment in time, it’s finite, but for carers this isolation can last for many years.

We owe it carers to help them become visible every day, not just during lockdown.

One of the ways we can do that is by celebrating carers and the role they play during National Carers Week. We can pause and take a moment to contact a family member or friend who has been caring quietly for a loved one for years. We now have a taste of what it is like to be isolated. We’ve also seen the amazing technological opportunities that are available to us which enable us to connect — platforms which we can continue to use to connect with people after lockdown is lifted.

We can all play our part in making sure that the carers around us are visible, that their roles are recognised and that they feel proud of the amazing frontline work they carry out every day.

Anyone who provides unpaid care and support to a family member or friend can have a carers assessment of their own needs. Visit www.liverpool.gov.uk/carersassessment for more information.