UNPAID carers - the people who look after loved ones with an illness or disability - are facing enormous pressure while lockdown continues.

But help is at hand from Carers Resource, which supports 16,000 carers across the district through group and one-to-one sessions, employment and training advice, planning for emergencies and maintaining wellbeing.

The Shipley-based charity is urging unpaid carers to get in touch during the coronavirus crisis. Staff are working from home, giving carers information, advice and a listening ear.

According to the charity, three in five people will become carers. It can be lifelong or instant; the result of a road accident or a stroke, for example, or when an ageing parent becomes increasingly frail. There are over seven million carers in the UK, and around 4.87 million juggle work with caring responsibilities. In The State of Caring 2019 survey 81per cent of carers felt isolated.

The economic value of the contribution made by unpaid carers in the UK is estimated to be £132bn a year - roughly the same as the NHS budget.

Carers Resource chief executive Chris Whiley said “We are helping carers to cope in lockdown. Our offices are closed to the public; staff are working from home to deal with ‘phone calls and electronic queries, and we’re linked in with the official district coronavirus response led by the Council.

“We aim to continue providing a service no matter what the situation. We offer support with form filling, give a listening ear to carers, even if it’s just to let off steam, and we have a useful form that can help them plan for the possibility of someone in the household contracting the virus. We have advice for working carers, and we’re signposting people to where they can get help with shopping and other things that are now more difficult.

“Carers registered with us can ask for a letter to show they’re a carer when accessing shopping times for vulnerable people or if challenged. Carers not already known to us can call their nearest office or self-refer, using the form on our website.

“Messages will be responded to as soon as possible, we want people to contact us no matter how many hours they care or whether the person they care for lives with them or not. We are very mindful of the fact some carers have loved ones in care homes or isolated in their own homes, and that is a real worry for them.

“As this crisis continues so will the pressure on carers and families. We want to urge unpaid carers to contact us for information, advice or general support at any time.“

Carers’ Resource has a not-for-profit paid-for regulated care service, Care@ Carers’ Resource, which supports people in their own homes with personal care, shopping and medication. Head of care Sam Dawson said: “We have all hands to the deck. We have been out supporting clients and giving them reassurance while following Government and NHS guidance.

“We have continued to deliver critical calls, personal care, medication, and hygiene cleans and shopping for our self-isolating customers and carers. We’re also giving telephone support. I did a WhatsApp video call to help someone cook last week.

“We’re taking extra precautions and urge families to follow guidance and not visit where possible. We recognise how tough this is, so we video-call families while our staff are there so they can not only talk to loved ones but also see them.

“Where we have a customer with additional needs who lives in supported living, we are offering to take them out for a walk in their local area to get them out fresh air, and hopefully reduce triggers to challenging behaviour from being cooped up. Staff are understandably anxious but we are trying to keep team morale up.”

Carers Resource is also reaching out to child carers who spend much of their young lives looking after parents or siblings.

Around 85,000 children in the region are carers in their home. A young carer is anyone under 18 who looks after a relative who has a physical or mental illness, a disability, or misuses drugs or alcohol. The youngsters carry out tasks such as getting someone out of bed, washed and dressed, cooking, housework and shopping.

Carers Resource, which currently works with over 280 young carers in the district, runs youth clubs, giving them a break from home, and activities and trips during school holidays. Staff also provide one-to-one support and mentoring. Earlier this year the charity sent posters to more than 200 schools in the district to raise awareness of what it means to be a young carer and what support there is.

During the current coronavirus crisis, when families are confined indoors, Carers Resource is helping young carers to take time out for themselves. Chris Whiley said: “Young carers can have lots of different responsibilities such as chores, looking after younger siblings, providing personal care and giving emotional support. The support for these young people has moved to online and telephone. We are calling all the families of young carers who we usually see one-to-one and those who come to our youth clubs. We’re using Facebook and our website to make sure carers have links, especially to mental health support.”

The charity is suggesting fun activities and challenges for youngsters, such as a virtual fancy dress contest and an egg or potato decoration competition. A photo montage of young carers is also planned, with ‘Thank you’ signs for NHS and other key workers.

l Visit carersresource.org/contact or youngcarersresource.org or call (01274) 449660, 01423 500555 or (01756) 700888.