Challenge of resort’s secret army of carers

The Poyner sisters, Katie, 10, Louise, 15 and Lily, seven, who help mum Sarah look after dad Chris
The Poyner sisters, Katie, 10, Louise, 15 and Lily, seven, who help mum Sarah look after dad Chris
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They are the hidden army of thousands, suffering alone without and semblance of support.

Blackpool’s secret army of carers look after those who they hold dearest to them with unquestioning love and loyalty.

And in the face of such silent self-sacrifice to their parents, siblings, spouses and friends, Blackpool’s unpaid carers are now being urged to come forward and get the help they need.

New statistics show there are more than 16,000 people across Blackpool voluntarily looking after others.

While this number may seem high in itself there are many more, including young children, who are feared to be off the radar of the authorities and struggling to cope – with the stigma of caring for sufferers of alcoholism and drug addictions among the reasons why they refuse to come forward.

Fylde Coast Carers Centre (FCCC), which has around 3,000 people on its database, says the official number of 16,319 resort carers is not surprising.

“The biggest issue to us is there will be many more thousands above that who will not be recognised,” says FCCC’s chief officer Michelle Smith.

“It may be because of the very word ‘carer’ – people see that word and don’t recognise that means them.

“For others it’s around stigma. If you’re caring for a partner or a parent with mental health issues or alcoholism or drug problems, they may not wish to make themselves known for different reasons.”

She added: “Our biggest challenge is in helping people to identify themselves and come out.”

Among the 3,000 on FCCC’s books are between 300 and 400 young people.

Blackpool topped the Lancashire league table for the number of registered unpaid carers within its boundaries.

In Wyre the number was 13, 837, while in Fylde it was 9,187.

Michelle explained the resort’s demographics accounted for such a high number in Blackpool.

She said: “We’ve got a higher level of older people and a lot of people with a lot of complex problems living in poverty. The focus from us is to get these young people into employment, education and training.

“A lot of them have very low aspirations and believe their lot is as a carer.

“Our job is to try and help them overcome these barriers.”

Sarah Poyner, from Bispham, serves as a full-time carer for her 40-year-old husband Chris – aided by their three daughters Katie, 10, Louise, 15 and Lily, seven.

Former builder Chris had a heart attack followed by a pulmonary embolism, and is now confined to a wheelchair and can no longer work.

He needs help washing and dressing himself along with other day-to-day issues which need tending to.

While the couple have taken the decision to home-school their three daughters – Sarah, 41, believes schools could do more to be understanding towards young carers.

She said: “I know quite a lot of people with children who do help their parents.

“The schools just aren’t made aware of that and they don’t understand that they care about that parent while they’re at school, worrying about whether their mum or dad is going to be poorly or need to go to hospital while they’re there.

“These children get picked on and bullied because they’re worrying about their parents.

“I’ve heard from other people how a teacher will give a whole class detention and the child will say they’ve got to get back home to look after their mum, but the teachers just don’t seem to be made aware of the fact that they actually do.”

Sarah, a former nurse, says that care has just become part of her life but admits others are struggling under different circumstances.

She added: “A lot of people don’t know there is a carers’ centre and if you want somebody to talk to you can pick up the phone.

“Sometimes people just need a bit of advice and not many people know where to turn. People just need to be made aware of where you can get that support.”

“There should be some sort of funding so carers can get training in things like first aid, so they don’t feel isolated.”

On October 18 Blackpool is at the heart of a national Best Breakfast campaign run by the Carers Trust. It is the first ever national fundraising campaign to help raise money to support unpaid carers in the UK and give them a break from their caring role.

The trust is encouraging people to wake up to the realities of caring by hosting a breakfast or lending support.

To find out more visit www.britainsbestbreakfast.org