THERE are 6.5 million people in the UK who are carers, often looking after a family member or friend with a health condition or disability on an unpaid basis. Whist caring can be a hugely rewarding experience, carers often find it challenging to take care of their own wellbeing; 61 per cent of carers have suffered physical ill health as a result of caring and the wider impacts on all aspects of life from relationships and health to finances and work should not be underestimated.

That is why this Carers Week, taking place from June 10-16, we are all encouraged to come together to help carers get connected.

Often, lack of time and understanding from others can cause loneliness and isolation among carers. The difficulty of taking time away from the caring role also adds to these feelings. Greater understanding from friends, colleagues and the public as well as more opportunities for breaks and social activities are all needed to combat the negative effects of caring.

Sometimes a few words from someone who understands the situation can be a lifeline: Carers Week is an opportunity for us to get connected to others, including fellow carers, in our communities and build new friendships. Whilst it is natural to think of ourselves as solely a family member or friend, the most important step to take is to recognise ourselves and others, as a carer. Those who would like further information about the vital support available locally for carers, call 030 300 30003.