Category Archives: Richard Cross

International Volunteer Day (IVD) 2017

Volunteering comes in many different forms; it might involve spending a few hours per week helping out at your local hospital or a charity shop, or a much bigger time commitment that becomes virtually a full-time job.

On International Volunteer Day I applaud everyone who takes the time and trouble to contribute their bit to society and would encourage others to do the same.

For very personal reasons, I fall into the latter category, devoting between three and four days per week in my various roles with Carers UK, Carers Trust in my home county of Cambridgeshire and as a member of the C4CC Co-production Team, spreading the word about the vital importance of our ‘Three Cs’ in involving people and their community in their own care.

I’m a campaigning volunteer, raising awareness about plight of the hidden army of unpaid carers, who like me devoted a very large part of their life to looking after the one they loved.

For me, it was my wife Sheila, who I looked after, for much of the time without seeking support, for over 12 years until she died 20 months ago.

Her passing has made me even more determined to spread the word about the support that is out there and also to campaign for more, recently marking Carers Rights Day by visiting parliament to both lobby and inform MPs.

For me volunteering has become a drug, as I know many people out there are struggling to cope with the pressures of caring to the detriment of their own health and welfare, many in near poverty and unable to cope.

If I can help to raise this awareness more openly, then I believe my contribution will have helped to make a difference.

After all, I have acquired specialist knowledge from over 28 years of caring, a lived experience that gives me an insight into many of the pitfalls a carer is likely to encounter on their caring journey.

There is much fantastic help available out there, but in my volunteering role along with others of the same thinking, we have helped to shape and streamline many of the available services so they are more user-friendly and cost effective.

This means the much-reduced council budgets have a better chance of fulfilling the needs of those with long-term conditions and their carers.

I am now 73, retirement for me is not an option I wish to consider, neither do I want to just wander around trying to find something to occupy the time aimlessly. I want our great country to be the very best at what we are good at…leading by example!

I don’t criticise anyone who chooses to spend their time that way, but my view is that if you have a wealth of skills and experience that can be used to the benefit of others then it is a tremendously rewarding experience and one I would thoroughly recommend.

I have made so many new friends and acquaintances through my work with three fantastic organisations and I hope to play my part for many years to come because despite the Care Act of 2014 enshrining much needed rights into law there is still much to be done.

 

Richard Cross, C4CC Co-production Team member

Carers Rights Day

Richard Cross, a member of the C4CC Co- Production team, blogs on why Carers Rights Day is so important to him.

For 12 years I was one of the hidden army of carers, looking after my wife Sheila, who had complex medical needs, which eventually led to her being wheelchair bound and totally dependent on me.

It was a 24/7 labour of love and I had to live life through Sheila’s eyes, to meet all her needs, yet stay in control of the situation.

It was tough.

At times it was difficult not to feel resentful and bitter at the hand that life had dealt us at a comparatively young age. I was only 47 when I gave up my full time work as a auditor.

I will admit as well that I made mistakes and had I been able to access more support, I could have made Sheila’s life a lot better, her health would not have suffered so much as a result.

It was only a chance conversation with a local councillor I knew in my area in Cambridgeshire that changed my life, and Sheila’s care for the better.

She was able to cut through the red tape and help me get a much- needed stair lift I had been battling for, without success, for the previous four years.

The connection with the local authority also brought me into contact with my local carers support group – The Carers Trust Cambridgeshire – and I have been acting as a volunteer and advocate for them ever since, as well as a range of other organisations, such as Carers UK and C4CC.

It is my own experiences that have made me so passionate about spreading the word that unpaid carers and their wider family have rights — now enshrined in the Care Act 2014.

As much as anything it’s about their legal right to have an assessment of their own, independent of the people they care for — so their needs can be evaluated — and support — such as respite breaks — provided.

Sheila died last April and in memory of her I am determined that we spread the word that not only that support is out there, but how rewarding it is to volunteer to help others find that extra help.

But there is still a long way to go in raising awareness. In my own county of Cambridgeshire there are an estimated 78,000 carers, but only 9,000 of them access any official support.

With an ageing population this is a problem that is not going to go away, but I’m proud of the work that we have done locally to address this situation.

All our GPs have signed up to a carers support scheme, so when a carer comes into their surgery — maybe just to pick up a prescription — their details are taken and emailed over to the Carers Trust, who in turn can signpost them to extra services and support.

This GP support is so important, not least because carers need regular health checks of their own because the rate of burnout among them is a real problem given the every day stresses that do not go away.

It was very different back in 1991 when I first went to my GP after Sheila had a nervous breakdown. I was supplied with the necessary medication, which came with strict instructions, but felt I had no real say in her ongoing treatment and care, or access to the sort of community support I was later to access, but almost by accident.

Despite changes of attitude, we still have a long way in ingraining the notion of co-production, championed by organisations such as C4CC and Carers UK, where carers and the patient have more say over their treatment and the services delivered to them.

But if we are able to achieve this, calling on all the resources that are available in communities, and yes, by people simply having the sort of conversations that changed my life for the better, then it will be well worth the effort.

In short, the three founding pillars of C4CC – Co-Production, Communities, Conversation – are the way forward in achieving better and more focused care for people with long term conditions and we all need to work together to make this happen.

Carers Rights Day is held every year by C4CC partner Carers UK and they want bring organisations together to help carers in their local community know their rights and find out how they can get the help and support they are entitled to. You can find out more in the Carers UK ‘Looking After Someone’ – a guide to carers rights.

If you are caring for someone at the moment and would like to find out more about your rights and how to get help, click here.