Carers to be given help in Scottish first

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A PIONEERING volunteering database which aims to offer relief to thousands of city carers is to launch within months.

In a Scottish first, the web-based system will attempt to tap in to a group of people who are willing to help other members of their community on a temporary basis. It is hoped that by putting volunteers in touch with permanent carers through the online booking system, a proportion of an estimated 47,000 people in Edinburgh who look after someone free of charge can be given a break.

Volunteers could offer respite by sitting with someone while a carer goes out, or by carrying out odd jobs such as shopping or gardening on their behalf.

The announcement of the launch of the Volunteernet service, planned for September, coincides with the start of Carers’ Week.

The campaign today said results of a survey had revealed that carers across Scotland felt “woefully let down” by a lack of help and that more than 80 per cent were not aware of schemes in place to assist them.

The results of the study also found that a carer’s physical, emotional and mental well-
being can often suffer, with more than 60 per cent
experiencing depression.

Norman Work, who was last year appointed as the Capital’s first carers’ champion, said Volunteernet, to be run by the council and the Edinburgh Volunteer Centre, would benefit everyone involved.

He said: “I’m not surprised by the statistics. One of the challenges we have is to make people aware that there are services out there that can help them.

“The idea is not to replace existing services, but add to them. It’s about a one-off type of help so that a carer can get a bit of shopping or have an hour to themselves, and hopefully volunteers will get something from it as well.

“I believe it’s quite innovative software, and people can be flexible. I think we’ve been quite brave to try this because we have to make sure we get the volunteers. If we don’t, we might not look too clever. I’m hoping we do get support.”

Applicants to the online database will be vetted before they are added to the system.

Last year, the city council announced £400,000 of funding to implement initiatives aimed at increasing support for carers. They included offering a one-off payment of up to £250 for carers to spend on their own health and well-
being. Carers have spent the cash on trips to London, spa days and golf club memberships, the council said.