June 8, 2023

Carers Week 2023: Supporting staff through Working Carers Network

Jo Rooney is Wakefield District’s Senior Commissioning Manager for Children and Young People. She is also a working carer and deputy chair of the ICB Working Carers Network. As part of Carers Week 2023, she talks about what it’s like being a working carer below and what support the Network can provide…

What is a Working Carer?

I don’t know that we have a formal definition, so I thought I would talk about my situation.

I never thought of myself as carer. I do what I do for my son because I’m his mother.

Who else but his family knew the young man he was before his acquired brain injury – his aspirations, his likes, dislikes and his personality?

I knew it was emotionally draining but that I put that down to the grief at the loss of the young man I knew and the change in his life and his future.

I’m a children’s commissioner, a children’s nurse with extensive experience of supporting children and families with long-term complex health conditions.

I sympathised/empathised and knew of the work that care entailed. But I didn’t truly understand the emotional impact of caring: the worry and anxiety, hospital and social care appointments and assessments.

I knew the process but not what they take from you. The constant chasing of results, resources and don’t get me started on prescriptions (I don’t live in West Yorkshire so it’s not a criticism of local services) is exhausting, it takes time, patience, diplomacy and using reserves you never thought you had.

On top this you are continuing to work and trying to do a good job.

Sometimes work is an escape, it gives a different focus to your day, to your life and allows you time to be more than just a carer.

However, work also adds another dynamic to your life and can be an added stress.

Even now my son no longer lives at home, my personal phone is always on so that I can answer when he’s upset and distressed, so I can talk to his carers and just in case I get that call again which changed his life and ours.

So, I found the Working Carers Network was a space where I didn’t have to wear a professional mask, a place which understood the complexities and demands of working in the NHS and a space where you didn’t have to explain or justify how you felt.

And this is the element of the Working Carers Network we strive to maintain.

The Working Carers Network also has a role, not just to provide emotional support to each other, but also to develop a voice within the organisation which is able to articulate the needs of working carers and highlight the value of lived experience we bring to the organisation.

Currently the meetings are on the third Thursday of the month from 9-10am but even if you don’t want to talk or share experiences, you can still be part of the network and ensure that needs of working carers are part of organisational planning and development. Just contact myself (jo.rooney1@nhs.net) and I’ll add you to the distribution list.

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