Final approval sought on plan to better support unpaid carers in Oxfordshire
Oxfordshire’s 50,000 unpaid carers are being asked for their seal of approval on a refreshed strategy designed to support them to continue to carry out their vital caring role.
Oxfordshire County Council has developed a new all-age unpaid carers strategy directly with people who have real life experiences of being an unpaid carer – a process known as coproduction.
Partners in health, education and social care (HESC), city and district councils and voluntary organisations such as Carers Oxfordshire have also been helping to create the final version of the strategy, which is now being consulted on the council’s Let’s talk Oxfordshire engagement platform.
Councillor Tim Bearder, Oxfordshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, said: “Unpaid carers are hugely valued, not only by the people they care for but also by the health and social care system.
“By listening to carers we’ve heard they sometimes don’t receive the level of support they need and deserve, and it’s crucial that we hear about their experiences to create a refreshed strategy, allowing them to continue to do their incredible work.”
The overall vision for the framework is that unpaid carers of all ages in Oxfordshire are valued and living their best life, with specific commitments around properly identifying all carers and enabling them to have a fulfilled life away from their caring role.
During the initial design stages, the council heard from 1,600 carers of different ages and faiths and from various locations across Oxfordshire. The results suggested carers felt increasingly isolated after the COVID pandemic and that they were tired and anxious especially in relation to their finances. They also fed back that information and guidance designed to support them was not easy to locate.
In response to the findings, the council has again worked with carers, as well as partners from Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West Integrated Care Board (BOB ICB), Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust (OHFT) and voluntary, community and social enterprises to create the final version of the strategy.
Three key priorities have been highlighted:
- To identify carers and effectively support them, improving their health and wellbeing and providing opportunities for a break from their caring role.
- To safeguard the most vulnerable carers who need more support to look after themselves, particularly during times of change and transition.
- To encourage and enable carers to have an active life outside their caring role, including fulfilling their education, employment, and training potential.
To ensure these priorities are met, HESC partners, alongside city and district councils and voluntary organisations, have agreed to work together to deliver a range of commitments. These include:
- Continuing to work with carers to keep the strategy up to date.
- Improved identification and support of unpaid carers by aligning workplans across HESC organisations.
- Ensuring carers can access breaks from their caring role to support their own wellbeing.
- Carers are valued and treated as the experts in their lives and what they need to support their health and wellbeing.
Importantly, these commitments are inclusive of young carers under the age of 19 who may need additional support to look after themselves, particularly during times of change and transition.
Daniel Leveson, Deputy Director of Strategy at BOB ICB, said: "I welcome our unpaid carers strategy. It signals our renewed commitment to carers. It recognises not only their contributions to people’s emotional health and wellbeing but also the valuable roles they play in our health and care system and society as a whole.”
Paula Gardner, Interim Chief Nursing Officer at OUH, said: "This strategy is a welcome support to unpaid carers – they play such a vital role in our homes, communities, and wider society. Finding out what would help them and how measures can be put in place to support them in their role is an important part of taking the next steps.”
Marie Crofts, Chief Nurse at OHFT, said: “Unpaid carers are often parents, family members and friends supporting and caring for the people they love. It is vital that we support them, as they support others, and I welcome this strategy which has been co-produced with carers so they can continue with their lives and futures.”
The consultation is now open at letstalk.oxfordshire.gov.uk/carers-strategy
All unpaid carers in Oxfordshire are invited to take part and offer their feedback on the principles and commitments of the strategy.
The consultation will stay open for one month and closes at midnight on Monday 3 July.
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