Running from the 18th-24th June, Carers Week is a UK-wide annual awareness campaign that aims to raise the profile of the UK’s legion – approximately 6 million – of unpaid carers.
It is a truism to state that, without the unstinting work and commitment of unpaid carers, society would cease to function. The ever-increasing demands of an ageing population, not to mention those suffering from long term physical and mental ailments, would place an unsustainable strain on the NHS.
Being a longterm carer to a relative or friend is a time-consuming, stressful, and, in many cases, utterly thankless task. Carers rarely receive the support and respite they need, and frequently find that their views and opinions are dismissed too readily by health professionals.
However, even with this support, carers are often left exhausted and isolated.
This year’s awareness campaign highlights the importance of the health and wellbeing of carers, especially in the context of cuts to local support services. It also underscores the positive influence of recognition from professionals.
One of the most important things to remember is that the issue of carers does not just effect carers themselves, or those they care for: it effects us all.
Over 80% of carers say they did not expect to be carers. It could happen to any of us, at any time. We owe it to carers, ourselves, and society to ensure that unpaid carers are afforded the respect they deserve, and have access to the advice, support and respite they need.
I was shocked and dismayed to hear that electronics manufacturer Philips is planning to lay off 40 workers at its lamps and luminaries factory in Hamilton.
According to Philips, the redundancies are necessitated by the transfer of some product lines to factories in Poland (where the cost of labour is presumably cheaper).
I would expect Philips to have explored all alternatives to redundancy; if they have not, I urge them to do so.
Whatever the reason behind the job cuts, my primary concern is for the employees affected. I have spoken to representatives at Philips, and I understand that they hope the majority of redundancies will be voluntary.
Whilst this is a positive development, responsibility lies with the Scottish Government and Finance Minister John Swinney to ensure that arrangements are in place to give workers seeking alternative employment the appropriate advice and support.
First and foremost, representatives from PACE and Skills Development Scotland must be on hand to give counsel during the redundancy period.
The welfare of workers apart, the redundancies are obviously a blow to the local economy, especially during this period of economic adversity. From a historical perspective, it is sad to observe the continuing diminution of Philips as a major employer in the Hamilton area.
This notwithstanding, the Scottish Government must now do all it can to boost the local and national economies, and to ensure that people across Central Scotland have access to a range of employment opportunities.