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This Carers Week we want to thank carers in Portsmouth for the crucial part they have played in caring for people during the pandemic and spread the word about the support that’s available for anyone who cares for someone.

Many of us have had a taste over the last 18 months of what it’s liked to be stuck at home and not able to get out and about as much as we would like. For many carers life can be like this all the time.

And during the pandemic it has been even more challenging as the usual opportunities to meet with others in the same situation or to have a break from a caring role have not been so easily available.

On Wednesday, the Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Health, Wellbeing and Social Care, wrote a letter thanking carers for their unique contribution during the Covid-19 pandemic. You can read the letter of thanks here.

Carer’s story: Shaun Peters

Shaun Peters found himself suddenly become a carer during the pandemic when his daughter was taken ill earlier this year. He says:

My name is Shaun Peters. I work at Portsmouth City Council with people who have learning disabilities. I am married to Lorraine and we have a daughter called Irene.

Irene is 23, and she is the apple of our eye. Until recently, the longest she’d ever spent in hospital was the day she was born, but that was about to change.

In March earlier this year my wife woke me at 2am to say we needed to take Irene to hospital because she was in great pain. I held Irene’s hand and did my best to show I was stronger than I was feeling inside.

Irene was given a biopsy, which showed she was not able to fight infections due to a condition called Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The shock of this diagnosis knocked us sideways. “How could this happen to her?” we asked ourselves.

I have played a caring role in my job but always managed to keep work and home separate, so to suddenly be a carer at home and not just ‘Dad’ has taken adjustment. It can be extremely draining, particularly for my wife, who does most of the practical care. We now know the route to the hospital very well.

My team at work have been fantastic and I have been able to organise my diary to take Irene to appointments and be around at home. I have found myself distracted at times and try not to blame myself and think that others in similar positions must be the same.

Irene is halfway through her chemotherapy and we cross our fingers that this treatment will work and she can live her life again.

Do you care for someone?

People who care for someone often don’t realise they are a ‘carer’. A carer is anyone who provides unpaid care and support to a family member or friend who has a disability, illness, mental health condition or who needs extra help as they grow older.

If you have a caring role, there is lots of support available:

  • The Portsmouth Carers Service is here to support carers with advice, opportunities to have a break, or a listening ear.
  • Solent Connexions is a new virtual service for informal carers who feel they might need support with their own mental health.
  • The council, partnered with Carers UK, is offering free digital resources for carers (you can create an account using the access code: DGTL1973).

Supporting carers during the pandemic and beyond

As a council, with our local partners, we are also working on new plans for supporting carers as we begin to open up and recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Included in the plans are:

  • more opportunity for carers to get emotional support, from both peers and professionals¬†– in acknowledgement of the mental toll taken by the pandemic
  • working with leisure centres through BH live to offer more chances for physical activity
  • using the Portsmouth Carers Centre to provide new social opportunities to carers with support for the person they care for to attend as well
  • working with existing carers groups to offer short term support to help them re-start
  • working with Portsmouth’s big employers to better support those who juggle work and care.

These plans are on top of our usual support for individual carers, which can result in funding for breaks to help their batteries recharge.

If you care for someone, do get in touch with the Portsmouth Carers service to find out how we might be able to help.