There is no doubt that, at times, being a carer is a difficult job. The time, energy and patience needed to care for someone is significant and can leave little time for anything else. All carers have different circumstances, but if you are a carer who also works, it is imperative that employers are supportive of this caring role. So how do carers identify whether their employer will be supportive?

The Carer Positive Award is designed for just that - highlighting working environments where carers are valued and supported. The award is presented to employers who support carers to manage the, at times, difficult job of balancing work and caring responsibilities. In 2021, thanks to a group of carers working at Support in Mind Scotland, we achieved the Carer Positive Award.

This week is Carers Week with a focus on making carers feel ‘visible, valued, and supported’. To celebrate Carers Week, we want to highlight the Carer Positive Award – reminding carers of their rights as employees, how they can access support and showcasing this work to other employers so they can reflect on how to make their practices as inclusive as possible.

Sheila, who cares for 3 people and works at Support in Mind Scotland part-time, was an integral part in the organisation receiving this award. We spoke to Sheila about why she wanted to apply for the award, the process of receiving the award, and what this means for her dual role as a carer and employee.

“I wanted us to apply for the award because when I’ve been going through a difficult time, I’ve been offered condensed hours and given a lot of peer support. I also know we have access to over-the-phone counselling services if I need them. Knowing that I am supported makes a big difference to how I feel.”

Pictured: Sandra (left) and Sheila (right)

“The first step was to put together a group of carers working at Support in Mind Scotland to advocate why they should receive the award. Once we had a group of about 6 people, we started working together on a policy that Support in Mind Scotland could use when supporting carers. This included guidelines on reasonable amounts of paid leave as well as something called ‘Carer Passports’, which is a tool for carers to use when talking about their needs with employers.”

The team put together the application to receive the Carer Positive Award, which we achieved in 2021. Since then, Sheila describes how the support for carers has increased in that time.

“We have a twice a month virtual café where we meet for a chat. There is a shared understanding in the group of what it’s like to juggle a job and caring role. We share information and give each other that bit of extra support.”

Part of the reason it’s so important for Support in Mind Scotland to support employees in caring roles is that we provide many services for carers across Scotland and value the lived experience of our staff. The knowledge and passion that is passed on through lived experience is a great asset to any employer and is something that should be encouraged, so long as the right support systems are in place.

Sheila works with the Carers Support service in Perth as she knows the importance of carers receiving the right support at the right time.

“Being a carer, I’ve had to do a lot of my own research which means when supporting people, I can pass that on. Whether that’s looking for support in legal matters or finding mental health services, I help them look for solutions. It’s important that we know the rights we have as carers. The more information we have the better. For example, when we’re at hospital appointments asking about a medication strategy so we know what’s going to happen if the medication doesn’t work and when to evaluate. What are the alternatives?”

We would like to thank Sheila and the rest of the Carer Positive team for their advocation of carers rights as employees and establishing Support in Mind Scotland’s commitment to being an inclusive place for carers to work.