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Singing the praises of the unsung heroes

Charlotte CrichtonIt was exciting to see Macmillan publish their “Hidden at Home” report recently, and to see it making an impact.  It looked at the level of social care needs that people with cancer have, and mruk conducted the research that underpinned the report. Social care covers a wide range of different needs, and inevitably different types of help and support are required to meet these needs. What was really newsworthy in our findings was how much support is being provided by the family and friends of people living with cancer. We found that three quarters of people with practical and personal needs were reliant on support from family and/or friends.

The impact on carers is often an unseen problem. The job that carers do is vital and the impact of receiving support is huge for those dependent on care. It’s intensely personal, which is where our bespoke online platform e-luminate helped get over the hurdles that would prevent people opening up on private matters. We were able to uncover where practical and emotional needs weren’t being met, and the impact that had on the people living with cancer. e-luminate online diaries helped capture in-the-moment snapshots of the lives of those affected.

Our work with Macmillan focused on social care needs of people who have cancer, but social care needs and support is a much bigger, and growing issue. Who doesn’t know someone who’s balancing their life with caring for a family member or friend suffering from a long-term debilitating condition, such as Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia? These conditions are typically more common in older people and with continuous and increasing pressure being placed on the NHS the importance of social care is only going to grow.

The first stage of the Care Act came into force at the beginning of April and brings with it significant changes to social care including the ability for anyone who provides unpaid care and support to someone to have a carer’s assessment. Any carer who has eligible needs is then entitled to support from their council; this could be support for the carer or support for the person who is cared for. Crucially carers who are assessed to be eligible will receive support even if the person they care for is not considered to have eligible needs. This should improve support for carers who often spend substantial time and energy caring for someone with inevitable impacts on their life.

Whilst the Care Act provides some beneficial change it doesn’t go all the way to solving the issue of the increasing number of people who have social care needs or the looming crisis of care for the ageing population. The answer to this is challenging. In an ideal world, there would be an integrated system which considers the changing social care needs that people will inevitably have and enables the production of a personalised ‘package’ which meets their needs. The ideal world may be a long way off, but we have to remember that everything starts somewhere. Similar to the huge difference that a small amount of care can make to someone, small changes now will help us in moving towards a more holistic social care system in the future.

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