A CHARITY that supports over 250 mental health carers across Bradford and Airedale has extended its opening hours in response to carers' increasing levels of stress.

Though staff from Bradford & Airedale Carer Support Service can no longer meet the unpaid family carers they support face-to-face, they are drawing up rotas so they can offer support to carers outside of normal office hours.

The service will now be able to offer information, advice and support via the telephone 9am-6pm Monday to Friday and 10am-2pm at the weekends.

It is operated by Making Space, national adult health and social care charity, which is offering extended operating hours and remodelling much of the support it provides across the country in response to Covid-19 social distancing guidelines.

Linda Anderson, team leader at Bradford & Airedale Carer Support Service, said: "Carers are worried about a number of issues, including who will look after their loved ones if they become ill.

"We are increasingly supporting carers with their own anxiety and mental health, as well as assisting in a huge number of practical ways.

"We are working with other voluntary organisations across the district as well as the Council to make sure that carers have all the support and information they need. This may be a listening ear to offload, support plans, signposting for help with shopping or what to do if someone in your household has symptoms of Covid-19.

"Unpaid carers who are looking after a loved one or friend with mental ill health across the Bradford district can be assured that our carer support service is still operating during the coronavirus crisis. Though our staff are unable to make face to face visits, we are available for information, advice and support through telephone calls and social media.

"We are working long hours, doing everything within our powers to ensure that family mental health carers do not fall through the cracks."

Linda says that family carers' own mental health is increasingly coming under strain, with many of the lifelines they have come to rely upon facing disruption. Over the coming weeks, her staff are planning to set up a regular timetable of virtual coffee mornings and peer support sessions using Zoom.

The service can also provide mental health carers who are registered with Making Space with an official letter, authored by The West Yorkshire and Harrogate Care Partnership, which allows them priority access to supermarkets during protected key worker hours.

How can I get in touch? Am I eligible for support?

Mental health carers in Bradford and Airedale can self-refer and the service is able to take on new referrals.

Family mental health carers can contact Bradford & Airedale Carer Support Service on 07843 267 954 or at bradfordcarersupport@makingspace.co.uk