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Matthew Mackenzie writes for Carers Week 2020

I'm so glad that Carers Week has finally arrived this year.

Never before has it been so important to raise the profile of carers, especially during this most difficult period of the coronavirus outbreak. At the start of the outbreak I unfortunately lost my mother who I was caring for. My mother actually did not catch the virus, but I do think the strain on the NHS caused a lot of issues. I am still a carer in some form as I try support my brothers. Still, it has not been easy to check how things have been with them, due to social distancing and the lock-down of facilities.

I run many carer forums in South London; with thanks to Carers Lewisham, Lambeth Carers Hub, Greenwich Carers and Southwark Carers for support and hosting the groups. With the virus outbreak I had to move all four carer groups online, because I knew many carers would be hidden and isolated. I wanted to make sure that carers still would be visible during this terrible crisis.

The theme of Carers Week this year is on 'Making Caring Visible'. The challenge to make carers and caring visible has often been difficult, because many do not even consider themselves carers. Many people care because they are doing it out of love, duty or concern. The thing is providing care is not easy, especially in this time when caring has become more hidden.

Without charities like Carers UK and CarersTrust working hard to make the voices of carers visible, it would be much more difficult to make that change in society to get a fairer system for unpaid carers. Carers often battle so much with getting access to financial support, especially when some have lost work. Its a challenge to get access to information while many inpatient wards are in lock-down while carers are worried if those that they care for risk infection. There is often a challenge for identity and recognition of carers. I applaud the work done by NHS workers, but at the back of my mind the 'Clap for carers' has blurred the identity of carers across the country and beyond. I have been in a situation where professionals would try to remind me that I was not a carer because my mother felt she did not have a mental health condition and that she did not need any care.

I am aware of the mental health stigma my mother had, but I am also aware of how mental illness can cloud and push others away. I would not be surprised if many families and carers feel left out of being recognised or known, because professionals are not being trained to include identification of carers. With millions of carers around the country, we can make a big difference and say "no" to being hidden, ignored and avoided. Carers can now take the opportunity to say "Yes" to becoming visible, identified, treated with respect and being supported.

Let's making caring visible. Let's say "Yes" to CarersWeek 2020


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