Bishop highlights plight of carers

Bishop John with friends (assistant Carly Hodson with two-year-olds Lila Edwards, Justina Blackburn and Autumn Price) from the Little Gems playground at the Faith in Families Centre, Brecon, which is run by the Diocese of Swansea and Brecon

The Bishop of Swansea and Brecon, John Davies, is urging the Church to care for its carers, warning that many who look after loved ones can be isolated and overlooked.

Speaking on Carers Rights Day (November 28) Bishop John warns many can be forgotten as they devote their time to caring for family, friends or neighbours who suffer illness or disability.

He cites the story of the Revd Dr John Gillibrand and his wife, Gill who were challenged to their limits caring for their young son with severe autism.

Adam was diagnosed when he was four and needed round the clock care. The task of looking after him was all-consuming and when he was nine Adam was accepted into residential full-time care.

Dr Gillibrand, who is vicar of Llangeler, near Llandysul, has since become actively involved in raising the profile of autism and disability in Wales.

He says, "There is help out there but it is up to you to fight for it. We had to fight to get Adam into a suitable special school, for example. There is also the issue of employment – carers may need time off or flexible working arrangements which companies are not legally obliged to provide.

"Gill and I spent one hour on, one hour off looking after Adam when he was home. We couldn't go out or lead any sort of normal life. It was a lifestyle which had implications for his younger brother, Peter, too. It was very difficult to preserve a family life in the face of such relentless challenges. You find yourself isolated and on the edge of society."

Bishop John says, "We have seen a huge increase in the number of people in our churches and the wider community who spend a lot of time caring for their loved ones, friends and neighbours.

"They do it out of love and compassion but there is no doubt that it can be emotionally and physically draining and can leave them with little time for themselves.

"Suddenly, their faces are no longer seen at church services, their usual social events or meetings because they are tied to the house and can't get out easily. Many don't even recognise themselves as carers and so do not feel entitled to claiming essential benefits and advice.

"These are people we need to watch out for and reach out to – offering them practical help, encouraging them to seek support or simply keeping them in the loop."

For more information visit the Carers UK website