Carers Trust has appointed Gail Scott-Spicer as its new chief executive and she is determined to drive the needs of carers up the political agenda, whoever the next government may be.
“We’re asking all Prospective Parliamentary Candidates to commit to supporting just three policy changes that could make a world of difference to the UK’s carers: increased investment in social care which is already in crisis; creation of a mandatory system for identifying carers in the NHS; and the coordination of health and social care services.
“Without these interventions, health and care services will not be able to support unpaid carers resulting in a mass breakdown of support provided by the UK’s hidden army of unpaid carers. We as a society cannot afford for this to happen,” she says.
“But it won’t just be about fighting these fires – no matter how hard they blaze! We have a long-term vision here at Carers Trust of creating a society that cares and recognises the immense contribution that carers make... We’ll be working with the politicians of today to develop the policies that can help the carers of tomorrow.
“That means investing in mental health facilities, ensuring young carers are given the support they need to perform their caring role and achieve their ambitions, and guaranteeing that our care and support networks are able to support our ageing population.”
Ms Scott-Spicer sees sharing the individual experiences of carers as a way to engage parliamentarians and says if she was granted an audience with the Prime Minister she would “bring a handful of carers and let them tell their own story.
“They could tell the PM about the difficulties they face looking after their own health whilst caring for someone else or about the monthly struggles they encounter trying to pay the bills whilst taking time out of work to meet their caring responsibility.
“I’d let them explain the changes they want to see made that could ease the pressures they face. I think any PM who got to hear those messages straight from the mouths of carers wouldn’t have any difficulty signing up to the #ThinkCarer2015 pledge and pushing for the policies we’re advocating.”
The #ThinkCarer2015 campaign sets out the organisation’s expectations from the next government and urges politicians not to forget about carers over the coming year.
“The most important thing I want political parties to know is that unpaid carers perform an incredible and absolutely vital role in our society. There are 7 million carers throughout the UK ranging in age from 5 to over 85.
“Their contribution to society is the equivalent of £119 billion each year. They are the backbone of our health and social care services – an unpaid workforce dedicated to supporting friends, loved ones, and family members who would not be able to cope without their support. But carers need support too in order to carry on caring and have a life too,” Ms Scott-Spicer says.
Although new to Carers Trust she is confident that her background and experience has prepared her for the challenges ahead.
“I’ve arrived at a time of significant change for Carers Trust – not only having a new chief executive for a charity that is only three years old, but with the new Care Act and the Children and Families Act, which will give carers greater rights, and with a general election just days away.
“Thankfully, my career path has helped me to get ready to take on the challenge as I am able to use my marketing and communications skills, with my experience of working in the voluntary sector (at The Scout Association) and my experience of being a deputy chief executive (at the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations). These have helped me to operate strategically and to know the value of being hands on in meeting the broad range of challenges.”
Her expertise will be necessary as Carers Trust attempts to make its voice heard amid the inevitable upheaval that will take place in Westminster in the coming months.
During this time the charity will be focussed primarily on securing the funding needed to implement changes set out in the Care Act.
According to Ms Scott-Spicer, “without proper funding this fantastic opportunity to ensure all carers have the chance to lead fulfilling lives could be lost. We’re calling on all parties to commit to ensuring social care is properly funded so that all carers receive the quality of support they need and deserve.”
The charity will also attempt to draw attention to unidentified carer, she says.
“There are over 7 million unpaid carers in the UK but 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 we want the next government to ensure the NHS has a responsibility to identify carers and make sure they receive the support they need.”
The new chief executive is also keen to trumpet the work the organisation is doing with young carers, who she describes as “a group that can go unrecognised but who often require specialist support to help them on their way through school, college, university, and into employment.
“Imagine trying to juggle the challenges of growing up whilst performing a caring role and trying to complete academic assignments and studying for exams. It’s not an easy task and that’s why we’re running two campaigns –
Time to be Heardand
Fair Start– aimed at ensuring that young carers receive the support they need from their school, university, or workplace.”
Drawing attention to the experiences young carers is one of many ambitions for Carers Trust and its new CEO. And while the political future of the nation is unclear, at least this organisation can be sure of strong leadership over the coming months.