Moves to tackle isolation of carers extended

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A BID to banish isolation among unpaid carers and help them overcome the day-to-day pressures of looking after a loved one is to be extended in North Yorkshire.

The decision to extend the project across the whole of Harrogate and Ripon follows a six-month pilot project which supported more than 140 carers-in-need across south Harrogate – resulting in half getting help for the very first time – and follows a Yorkshire Post campaign to highlight the shocking scale of loneliness in the region.

The programme of support – run by charity the Carers’ Resource in partnership with the local NHS and North Yorkshire County Council – is to be funded until March next year and expanded into north Harrogate as well as Ripon and rural areas.

The Carers’ Resource said the success of the project had created a strong platform to reach out to more people in the district’s growing community of carers at a time when Government cutbacks were causing unprecedented hardship for them.

New research has revealed that one-in-three carers are £20,000 worse off as a result of their role and half have had to rein in on essentials such as food and heating.

“Expansion of the scheme is great news for every carer across Harrogate and Ripon,” said the charity’s founding director, Anne Smyth.

“We’re delighted that Harrogate and Rural District Clinical Commissioning Group has recognised the value of our work and the importance of supporting carers with this increased funding.

“Our district has a growing and ageing population which will see more and more of us caring for loved ones.

“Yet in the face of far-reaching cutbacks, carers will be forced to cope with less and less support.”

Some 91,300 people aged over 65 who live alone across the region admit to feeling lonely all of the time or often, research by the Yorkshire Post has found.

Research suggests the health consequences are comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Yesterday a study by the University of Chicago was unveiled which found loneliness has twice as much impact on early mortality then obesity.

Feelings of extreme loneliness can increase an older person’s chances of premature death by 14 per cent, according to the research.

This compares with a seven per cent increase in mortality risk for obese people, found in previous research.

Jack Neill-Hall, campaign manager for the Campaign to End Loneliness, said of the research: “These findings add to the growing body of evidence showing the profound impact loneliness can have on our health.

“For example, loneliness has been linked with the early onset of disability, cognitive decline and cardiovascular disease.

“It is also closely associated with poor health choices.

“Lonely people are more likely to smoke, drink to excess, have a poor diet and are less likely to exercise enough.”

In Harrogate, the aim of the new approach is to pool different skills into a more integrated approach to ensure that people with long-term conditions – such as heart and lung disease or Alzheimer’s – are cared for at the right time in the right setting, preferably in their own home.

A total of 145 carers were referred to the Carers’ Resource during the pilot, which ran from July to December last year.

Each was provided with special information tailored to their needs – demystifying ways of accessing blue badge parking discs, NHS continuing care funding and other information.

Over half of these received more in-depth support from a dedicated case worker and home visits, helping carers to obtain everything from welfare benefits for the person they were caring for and council tax discount services available to them.

joanne.ginley@jpress.co.uk