Community Carer Passport schemes help carers recognise their caring role, connect to local support and receive discounts or local concessions to make life a little easier.
The majority of carers take years to recognise their role, missing out on crucial financial, practical and emotional support in the meantime. By not receiving support at an early stage, carers miss out on benefits and entitlements and others forced to give up work. On a personal level, a lack of practical help can have a huge impact on health and wellbeing, whether causing long-term physical health effects such as back pain, or leading to mental ill health and social isolation and as a result of caring without a supportive network.
Any initiative which helps carers to recognise themselves as carers and connect with information and support is therefore tackling a crucial social and personal issue.
While a discount scheme is not a mandatory part of a Community Carer Passport, they do bring further benefits both to carers and businesses. As well as being a great tool for increasing visibility and grabbing carers’ attention, a discount scheme can act as a small token of recognition for the importance of the caring role, and do something to alleviate its impact on household finances.
By making leisure and wellbeing activities more affordable for carers – whether going to the cinema or doing a yoga class – a discount scheme could make a substantial difference to the number of carers taking up those activities and feeling better able to keep managing their caring role as a result.
Generally, when we approach businesses with the offer to join the Carers Card scheme in Dorset, the response is very positive. Free marketing is not the over-riding factor in the decision to join. Instead, business owners genuinely understand the concept of the scheme, which is recognising carers and the sterling work that they do – so they want to contribute. We are often thanked for approaching them.
For local businesses, there are clear benefits attached. They are part of a positive strategic partnership initiative in their area, perhaps connected into the NHS and other essential services. They may also benefit in both reputation and increased footfall by associating their business with the Carer Passport scheme and marketing themselves to carers as part of the promotional information.
There is also great potential for a local offer which meaningfully engages carers. Working with the Carers Service, carers can help commissioners and service providers better understand the needs of carers locally, the gaps in provision and the ways in which local organisations could make a difference to their daily lives.
Resources and schemes which facilitate co-ordination and joined-up approaches help carers to be more in control, recognising their role and value, and providing them with better and more effective access to support. The Carer Passport can be one tool for facilitating this level of co-ordination.