Carer Support Wiltshire organised a conference to discuss how Wiltshire can become the UK's first truly carer-friendly county.
The charity helps carers throughout the county and is jointly funded by Wiltshire Council and the NHS Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group.
It defines a carer as anyone who cares, unpaid, for a family member or friend who could not always manage without their support.
They might look after someone with a physical disability, long term health condition, mental health issue or a problem with substance misuse, and thousands of the more than 47,500 carers in Wiltshire live in and around Swindon.
The Carer Support Wiltshire conference, held at Trowbridge Civic Centre, brought together leaders from primary care, the NHS, education and social care.
Judy Walker, Chief Executive of Carer Support Wiltshire, said: “This conference was an inspiring first step in achieving our goal of making Wiltshire a carer-friendly county, a county where carers are seen and supported so that they can focus on the challenging job of caring for someone while also looking after themselves.
“Too many carers have to spend precious free time navigating complex healthcare and benefits systems and they feel unseen and undervalued. We know that many important issues need to be addressed by national Government.
"But, in the meantime, we can be working at a local level to improve the lives of our carers right now and that is what we are focusing on.”
Attendees heard from several speakers including people who are currently caring for someone or have cared for someone.
They were also given the opportunity to gather in groups and discuss how barriers for carers could be overcome in the areas of community, health, employment and education. Examples included, how carers could be helped to maintain a healthy lifestyle, balance work with caring and participate in education.
Two young adult carers, Celina and Keah, delivered hard-hitting accounts of how they cared for relatives from a young age and the impact this had on them.
Keah said: “I have been caring for years. I helped my mum care for my dad who had chronic ill health. When I was 17 and still at school my mum had a stroke and was in a coma for three months, and my dad died.
“I spent a year sleeping on the sofa next to mums’ bed in the lounge. I helped with personal care, cooking, laundry, cleaning, basically everything. Mum had paid carers in three times a day so I could go to college, but I would come home every lunch time to make sure she was okay. Since then she has suffered with another stroke. I am only 20 but I already feel I have lived a lifetime.”
Two current community projects that are making carers’ lives easier were discussed – the Investors in Carers scheme, which works with GP surgeries and sets standards for them to meet for how they support carers, and work with Wiltshire schools and colleges to guide staff in how to identify young carers and best support them so they are able to successfully complete their education.
A follow-up conference will be held later this year, and further information can be obtained by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The charity's website is www.carersupportwiltshire.co.uk