There are currently an estimated 250,000 carers working in the NHS, many of whom are aged between 45-64 and so are likely to be amongst our most experienced and skilled staff. The care they give is unpaid and often helps to keep some of our most vulnerable members of society out of hospital or social care and improve their quality of life.
A carer is someone who provides unpaid care and support to a family member or friend due to their disability, health condition, frailty, mental health problem, addiction or other health and care need. If you are looking after a child, including your own child, who has special physical or mental health support needs, then you are also a carer.
Hello, my name’s Em Wilkinson Brice, I’m the deputy chief people officer, at NHS England and NHS Improvement. I’m also a nurse by background and have spent many years caring for patients. I know how hard it can be caring for people as part of your role. But did you know that around one in five of our NHS people also balance their working lives with unpaid caring responsibilities.
The work of Carers UK estimates that around two thousand staff have left the NHS due to their caring responsibilities. We also know through Carers UK that our black Asian minority ethnic colleagues are likely to be providing more of that care. So we need to be able to identify our staff carers and provide the support that means that they can balance both important roles.
This week from the 8th of June in National Carers Week, I’m really delighted to contribute to this important week of celebration and recognition by unveiling access to resources provided by employers for carers, which are designed to help employers create carer friendly workplaces.
It provides practical tools both for a jaw and line managers through a digital platform. So there’s e-learning guides, toolkits and also support for individual working carers. We’re launching this initiative filled with these fantastic resources for staff working in NHS organisations across England in Carers Week, and access can be gained through local HR teams.
Sometimes it’s difficult, isn’t it, to know how to have a conversation around topics like this, especially if, like me, you might not have any direct experience of being an unpaid carer yourself. However, I’ve worked with friends and colleagues who have told me that with those responsibilities, the difference it can make having flexibility and support at work. As well as employers for carers and all the great resources on our health and wellbeing website, which is people.nhs.uk, the other part of our support offer is to roll out their working carer’s passport. You can access the passport now and use it today as a great framework for having that conversation. It can guide conversations between line managers and their staff who’ve got caring responsibilities and can be reviewed regularly alongside say, one to ones.
We’re also looking to create a function within ESR so that we’re capturing all of our staff who’ve got caring responsibilities. So what does this mean in practise as a carer? I’d really encourage you to let your line manager know if you’ve got carer responsibilities. We want to be able to work together to ensure that we can support and balance, caring and work responsibilities. As a line manager, I guess I’d say “ask”. Have a conversation, we need to give carers permission to talk with their line managers and ask for flexible arrangements. It might only be for a short term or it might be for a more sustained period.
It’s important at all times that we really recognise as staff who are also carers, not just for Carers Week, but also, I suppose, amplified by what’s been happening with COVID. Our carers are protecting some of our most vulnerable people in society and we want to thank them and support them as best we can now and always.
Support available for carers who work for the NHS
· Speaking to your line manager about a Carer’s passport is a good place to start. A Carer’s passport will identify you as a carer and can help you frame discussions with your line manager which might include conversations around flexible working and other support available to you. We are working on a digital solution to enable this document to travel with you between roles and organisations, and ensuring all NHS organisations in England are part of the scheme.
· You can also access the Carers UK’s Digital Resource for Carers which provides a range of useful tools and resources to support you as a carer. Your access code will be made available to you by your line manager or HR team.
· Let your line manager know about your caring responsibilities so they can provide you with the support you need to balance your caring and work responsibilities. They can also flag this on ESR (Electronic Staff Record) so that we can be better aware of our unpaid carers and continue to support you. A ‘how to’ guide is now available
Tips for line managers when supporting carers
1) It’s important to find who the carers are on your team and ask them how they’d like to be supported. This can be done during 1:1 conversations, using the tools and resources available at Employers for Carers for support. The Working Carer’s Passport Log provides a useful way to guide and capture these conversations.
You can also use ESR to capture details of carers on your team to help ensure that we understand who our carers are, where they are working and how we can best support them. Find out more in this ESR guidance on identifying carers within your organisation.
2) Visit the Employers for Carers (EfC) digital platform, which provides line managers with useful tools and interactive resources to learn how best to support working carers.
Each Integrated Care System (ICS) /Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) footprint has its own unique Access Code for the platform which allows users to create a free account. Your HR lead will be able to give you the sign in details, or access them on your behalf from the ICS/STP workforce lead
3) Share Carers UK’s Digital Resource for Carers with the carers in your team. It provides useful materials to support carers as they balance caring responsibilities with work.
Each ICS/STP footprint has its own unique Access Code for the platform which allows the carers in your team to create a free account. Your HR lead will be able to give you the sign in details, or access them on your behalf from the ICS/STP workforce lead
Tips for HR professionals when supporting carers in your organisation
1) Find out who the carers are in your organisation and support them using ESR and the Carers Passport Scheme. Lead by example and ask your team in their next 1:1s whether they have caring responsibilities. Use the Working Carers Passport Log to guide these conversations.
2) Visit the Employers for Carers (EfC) digital platform for tools and interactive resources to learn how best to support working carers in the NHS.
Each ICS/STP footprint has its own unique Access Code for the platform which allows users to create a free account. For access codes, please contact your ICS/STP workforce lead.
3) Encourage the creation of and regular meetings of a Carer’s network.
4) Share Carers UK’s Digital Resource for Carers with your line managers and colleagues. It provides useful materials to support carers as they balance caring responsibilities with work.
Each ICS/STP footprint has its own unique Access Code for the platform which allows the carers in your organisation to create a free account. For access codes, please contact your ICS/STP workforce lead. Alternatively if you are a HR Administrator within ESR you can access a file directly from ESR to locate your codes. To find out how, log in to ESR as normal. Here you will be asked to download a file which you can use to find your organisation and the associated access codes. You can then share these within your organisation
Taking a diverse approach
It’s important to be aware that there will be some groups in our NHS who are more likely to have caring responsibilities, such as our BAME colleagues, or who may need a different approach when it comes to support. You may need to provide a range of approaches in order to ensure that all carers have access to the support they need, in a way which is relevant and culturally appropriate for them. The best way to find out is to ask your carer colleagues what will work for them.
Find out how these resources have already helped colleagues in the NHS by reading our case studes:
Employers for Carers (EfC) Case studies
West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership (also known as integrated care system)
There are an estimated 260,000 unpaid carers living in West Yorkshire and Harrogate, many of whom are ‘hidden’ and provide the majority of care without formal support. Being a carer can be stressful and have a major impact on your health, relationships, education and employment.
With this in mind we have been working with NHS England to ensure that identifying carers and supporting them is further embedded within our work. This includes developing ways to support the existing and future workforce who balance caring responsibilities, signposting and identifying service standards for all organisations – not just in the public sector – and promoting Employers for Carers membership resources across the area.
More recently the programme has worked with local carer organisations to develop ‘My Coronavirus/Covid-19 ‘Plan B’ which will help carers think about the different ways and people that can help them in an emergency if they look after someone who couldn’t manage without their support. Other initiatives include introducing a flexible working arrangement via the working carers’ passport. This is an agreement between the carer and their manager, on behalf of the organisation. The intention is for the carer to be able to manage their working role alongside their caring responsibilities. It’s a mutual beneficial arrangement, enabling the organisation to maintain staff retention, reduce unplanned absenteeism and to retain the skills they need whilst improving staff morale and loyalty.
‘We still want to do more work on this but the Working Carers Passport has assisted in what can be a difficult conversation with managers easier, and enabled our carers who balance work and caring to be honest and start to talk about what they need as a carer and employee’.
Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
At Nottinghamshire Healthcare, we believe it’s vital to have the right support in place for all staff, and particularly those who are, or will become carers. Nottinghamshire Healthcare became an Employers for Carers member in January 2020.
The resources are all available digitally and provide a useful tool to promote the importance of supporting working carers and to help us provide a carer-friendly workplace. In March 2020 we were recognised as a Carer Confident Active Employer and the benchmarking scheme has provided a helpful framework for us to develop our support for staff who are also unpaid carers or may become a carer in the future
The award application, was submitted by the Involvement, Experience and Volunteering and the Human Resources Team detailing the support that the Trust offers to carers including a ‘Wellbeing – ‘How are you doing?’ plan, special leave guidance, flexible working guidance and a Carers Connect Network. We were inspired by the Triangle of Care model used successfully within our Trust with dedicated carers leads and links to provide ongoing support to carers.
Clare Teeney, Executive Director of People and Culture, said:
“I’m very proud that Nottinghamshire Healthcare has achieved Level 1 Carer Confident accreditation, it’s a brilliant first step and incredibly positive to be recognised for the excellent support we offer to our carers. We very much value our staff who are carers and the contribution they make and want to make sure that the right package of support is available to them. We are also committed to raising awareness of our carers benefits and improving the support we offer.”
Surrey Heartlands CCG Employers for Carers Organisational Case Study – Carers Week 2020
Our journey to become a carer friendly employer started during Carers Week 2019. With the support from our Executive Lead, Vicky Stobbart, and our Surrey Heartlands Independent Carers Lead, Dr Sue Tresman, we launched our staff carers survey the results of which have been the foundation for our ‘supporting staff carers action plan.’
On the 1st April 2020, four Surrey CCGs merged to become the new Surrey Heartlands CCG reflecting our ICS footprint. The Surrey Heartlands CCG Staff Health and Wellbeing Group host our staff carers workstream.
Our action plan is based on the three incremental levels of the ‘Carer Confident’ accreditation scheme. We are delighted to be the first CCG in the country to achieve an ‘Active level’ status but our overall system ambition is to progress this work through a collaborative partnership with Surrey County Council to ensure we achieve carer friendly employment practices across Surrey Heartlands ICS.
The NHS People’s Plan has signalled a clear expectation that the NHS has both a moral and economic imperative to support staff who are also caring. Luckily for us Carers UK’s Employers for Carers service has provided a road map around how this can be achieved.
Surrey Heartlands CCG Staff Carers Case Study – Carers Week 2020
Working and Caring – a Journey
My journey as a carer has been evolving over time, I have cared for close family members locally and elderly relatives at a distance for many years. I have enjoyed caring for all my family members at these important times in their lives when they are at their most vulnerable, even though it has often been exhausting and challenging juggling caring whilst working full time.
Having a supportive employer has been imperative. This includes having a line manager and HR process that understands the needs of carers which have helped me achieve a more productive work-life balance including looking after my own emotional health and wellbeing needs, whilst still being able to deliver within my role and continue to care for my loved ones.
We are all aware that health appointments can rarely be accommodated around the working day. Having the flexibility to make up worktime later has had a huge positive impact on my wellbeing. This is invaluable where the caring cycle extends due to health necessities.
Isolation during the COVID period has bought with it lots of challenges and new ways of working and caring, and the continued support of my organisation has been very much appreciated.
Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust (Provided by Lisa Duff, OD and Inclusion Facilitator)
“At Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust we engaged with EfC last year, taking out a membership to support our staff after focus groups showed that a lot of our staff could be carers in line with national statistics.
It was a busy year with EfC, we engaged with staff via communications initially and EfC had a stand at our leadership conference which was well received. I worked on meeting people at events and induction to share the EfC message of support and signposting for managers and staff.
We worked up to a host of events over October and November which included drop in sessions across or Trust, with leaflets, information and posters with support of our HR and OD team and also our Carers health team.
These proved very valuable to staff and were often were quite emotive. Some staff attended just to tell their story and some felt emotional about the pressures they were under in different areas of life outside work.
One member of staff attended with her manager so they could find useful solutions during a time of diagnosis and treatment of her husband. The manager was so supportive in helping find a solution to work, without added pressure.
This gave us opportunities to engage with staff about practical ideas for flexible working and balancing work with caring.
We had some great feedback and planned for EfC to come in and see us for a session in November for Carers Rights Day to share information with managers, HR staff and others about moving forward, what we had learnt, and how to support staff.
We have taken out another membership recently for this year, there is lots of good work to be done and we can’t wait to get started in Carers Week in June!”