Good morning, and welcome to the Carers Forum.
My name is Jennifer Twist, I am the Chief Executive of Care for the Carers.

….So why are we here…?

The Carers Forum is one of the ways that as carers in East Sussex, you can get involved in shaping the services that have a big impact on your life, and the lives of those you care for. We are also joined by a range of partner organisations who are here with lots of practical information that we hope will be helpful to you, and will be able to feed the experiences of carers they work with into our discussions.

My key message today is the importance of your voice…

  • Carers are experiencing health and social care services day to day, as you support those you care for to access healthcare and support, and both in your own right.
  • Carers usually have the best understanding of the health and care needs of those who you care for, and also how being a carer impacts on your own health and wellbeing.
  • We are all acutely aware that the General election getting very close now, and it provides a unique opportunity to ensure candidates (and future MPs!) are listening to the views and concerns of carers.
  • There is a national campaign reminding carers of their potential voting power – almost 1 in every 7 members of the voting public is an unpaid carer.

So carers’ organisations have put out 3 key messages for politicians, asking candidates to commit to a set of specific actions they can take, that will help improve the lives of carers:

  1. Invest in social care:

    The Care Act, which came into force at the start of this month, gives more rights and support to carers. But without proper funding this fantastic opportunity could be lost.

    Carers’ organisations are calling for all parties to commit to properly funding social care, so that all carers receive the quality support they need and deserve.

  2. Identify carers:

    There are over 7 million unpaid carers in the UK – 60,000 in East Sussex. But this this could be just the tip of the iceberg since many carers remain unidentified. This means thousands of people could be performing a caring role without the help and support they are entitled to.

    Carers often first come into contact with health and social services through their local GP. That’s why the next government is being asked to ensure the NHS has a responsibility to identify carers and make sure they receive the support they need.

  3. Proper coordination of services:

    Carers are often left feeling like they’re trying to navigate a complex maze just trying to access the support they need. That’s because at the moment health and social care support simply isn’t properly joined-up.

    Carers’ time and energy is already stretched: the systems put in place to support them shouldn’t add to that stress. We want the next government to commit to achieving true co-ordination between health and social care services so these services are responsive to carers’ needs.

Investment. Identification. Coordination.

These are the three big changes that we want candidates to commit to between now and the election – changes we think will make a real difference to the lives of carers.

In East Sussex, Health and Social Care are working together to address the need for joined up services, and we really welcome this commitment. Today’s event is an opportunity to hear about the Better Together programme, and to influence its development.

But of course today is – most importantly – about you, and your voice. As local carers, it’s an opportunity to meet one another, and to reflect on what is important to you.