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Better access to information and financial and practical support is needed to help the UK’s growing number of carers
Carers Week 2013 takes place from 10 to 16 June 2013 with the aim to improve the lives of carers and people they care for through increasing awareness. Throughout the UK 6.5 million carers are caring for a relative or a friend or neighbour who, usually suddenly, has suffered illness or injury leaving them fully or partially dependant on others. During Carers Week a range of charities are seeking to draw attention to the role of carers. They hope to raise awareness of how reliant community services are upon family members as (often unpaid) carers and how more needs to be done to support carers in their roles. People who find themselves with new and unfamiliar caring responsibilities often do not know where to find the support, advice and information they need.
This year the theme for Carers Week is: Prepared to Care? According to the statistics every day at least 6,000 people find that they have to adopt a formal caring role. It can be easy to overlook the extent to which some of our friends have to care for elderly or disabled relatives because they do so without complaint. The idea behind this campaign is to make us all think about how they are coping and whether there is adequate help and support available, and how we ourselves we cope if we found ourselves caring for a loved one.
With everyday advances and improvements in medicine and the general increases in the average life expectancy the number of carers and the demands on carers will only increase. The impact of caring on a carer’s daily life should not be under-estimated, both physically, psychologically and financially, and therefore we fully support this campaign to raise awareness as early as possible of the role of the carer and how they can be better supported.
Care requirements due to medical negligence
As medical negligence solicitors our clients have been injured during the course of medical treatment. The majority of our clients require some level of care as a result of those injuries, with the most seriously injured requiring around the clock care for all aspects of their daily lives. The need for this care usually arises very suddenly and is unexpected. We generally see that the majority of this care is then, at least initially, being provided by family members, with only very basic (if any) provision being provided by the local authority due to restrictions in funding, and over-reliance by the local authority on any family member who is able to provide the care. The statistics published for Carers Week state that family carers save the UK economy £119 billion every year, but the statistics also reveal that large proportions of carers had to give up work and suffered reductions in their own income due to their caring role. We are also frequently told that carers have no idea where to go to obtain support, either practical or financial, with their caring role, which is an unacceptable situation.
Care provided by family members is usually provided without question, but what we are frequently told by our clients and those that care from them that what they really want is to go back to the relationship they had before, for example parent, rather than carer, yet it is so difficult for this to happen because of the limited state funding available for care and the lack of certainty as to the continuity and quality of this care.
In the context of a claim for damages for injuries suffered as a result of medical negligence probably the single biggest component in a damages award will be the cost of past and future care of any injured patient. This care is claimed on a fully private basis because of the lack of certainty as to the availability of state funded care in the future. The compensation pays for professional help and relieves the burden on the family carer and enables them to return to being a loving family member. In one case investigated by the Clinical Negligence Team we acted for a young man who suffered a brain injury during his birth, leaving him dependant on others for the majority of his daily needs. His mother was his sole carer until his case was won and he was able to hire his own small team of dedicated carers. His mum then had the peace of mind that he would be looked after for the rest of his life and she could return to being “mum”.