Supporting Oxfordshire’s army of unpaid carers

Meet Elsa Dawson, from Eynsham in Oxfordshire, who is one of more than 50,000 unpaid carers in the county.

As a parent-carer, Elsa, who’s 72, has experienced the ups and downs of looking after her daughter Elisa, who has Angelman Syndrome – a rare condition which causes epilepsy, affects speech development and results in daily health complications.

Elsa said: “Bringing up a child with additional needs is a rollercoaster ride. Elisa is a joy – she gives the best hugs and has taught me to enjoy the smaller things in life. But there have been difficult times and it’s important that carers are given the support they need, helping them to live a life alongside caring.”

Elsa and Elisa with Blenheim Palaces Snow Queen

Elsa is now working with others in a similar position, helping Oxfordshire County Council to develop a new all-age unpaid carers strategy by a process known as coproduction. The approach works by listening to people with real life experiences, helping to develop projects that offer the most value to those who they are designed to help.

According to the 2021 Census, there are 52,674 unpaid carers in Oxfordshire, although the number is expected to be much higher as many people who care for loved ones do not consider themselves in this category.

One of the main aims of the renewed strategy is to better identify who these carers are and support them all. The strategy wants to bring together health, education and social care partners alongside voluntary and charitable organisations, sharing information and knowledge. This includes young carers, under the age of 19, who may need additional support to look after themselves, particularly during times of change and transition.

A further priority has been identified as encouraging and enabling carers to have an active life outside their caring role, including fulfilling their education, employment, and training potential.

Karen Fuller, Oxfordshire County Council’s Interim Director for Adult Social Care, said: “Now that the council and health partners have agreed to the development of the renewed strategy, we can really start to coproduce a framework which will make a genuine difference to carer’s lives.

“As a council, one of our strategic priorities is to support carers and the social care system and this piece of work is vital to seeing this commitment come to fruition.”

The council will now work to align workplans to make sure unpaid carers are identified, supported and regularly engaged with to support their wellbeing.

Work will also start on bringing together an easily accessible information hub, providing the latest advice and information for carers in one central place.

The strategy also commits to a new a way of working to ensure these improvements are maintained across teams and the wider community and voluntary sector.

Hear more from Elsa about her work on our unpaid carers' strategy by watching our short video.

Click Sign up to hear from us and receive the latest news and updates thanks to our fortnightly newsletter, Your Oxfordshire.