On Friday 16th June a group of carers, policy makers, and researchers joined together to celebrate National Carers Week at the University of Stirling. The aim of the morning was to illustrate the type of work that goes on in the field of caring for older adults, whilst offering a space for people to say what is missing and what needs improving.
The event began with a keynote address from Professor Caroline Glendinning who demonstrated the importance of understanding both private and public responsibility of care. Professor Glendinning drew our attention to the many consequences of leaving care ‘behind closed doors’ and the delayed challenges the country face when difficulties become too much to manage.
An area of particular relevance to the event and the talks were how we can better support people to continue working (if they wish to) whilst juggling their caring responsibilities. Examples of successful care management in other countries were discussed, whilst noting there are still flaws in plans such as unpaid carer leave. Glendinning made it clear that we need to find ways of creating flexible and secure work environments, and make it more feasible for people to continue being part of the work force without losing all entitlements.
Following this, Fiona Collie from Carer’s Scotland (part of Carers UK) grounded Professor Glendinning’s talk within Scottish policy context. As well as highlighting the work of Carer’s Scotland, Fiona Collie reinforced that a key challenge we face in research and policy is helping people to recognise themselves as carers and therefore entitled to the support on offer.
Fiona Collie’s talk was followed by a poignant presentation by Tracey Ward who had cared for her mother with dementia. Tracey was unable to attend the event and so sent in advance speech to read out and a moving video poem. As well as drawing direction to some of the key challenges carers such as Tracey face, she also demonstrated brilliantly how important it is to present information in novel ways. It would be great to see research fed back in similar ways in the future.
Finally, the event finished with lunch and a ‘world cafe’ of ideas focusing on what people think researchers and policy makers should know about caring and what could be done in the future. We hope to be able to use these ideas as a starting point for new directions.
As organisers we would like to thank all of those who attended, we hope that it was insightful for everyone involved and reflected our overall aim of celebrating the hard work that carers do. We would like to thank the BSG for funding this event and encouraging PhD students and early-career researchers to undertake such a project. Thank you to the University of Stirling and the DSDC for hosting the event, Cafe 33 for the delicious cake, and all of the team involved in making it all happen.