In Scotland there are around 788,000 people providing care to family or friends. One in seven carers are juggling their caring roles with an active working life. A Carers Scotland survey [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] in 2017 suggests that more than 4 out of 10 carers (43%) give up work to care. Some carers may consider re-entering the workforce when their caring role changes or comes to an end.

Currently, three in five people are expected to care for someone at some point in their lives. A significant increase in the number of carers is forecast, due to Scotland’s ageing population, and this will have implications for employers, managers and policy makers.

The Scottish Government has made clear its commitment to supporting carers’ health and well-being. The Carers (Scotland) Act 2016, which came into force on 1 April 2018, aims to support carers' health and wellbeing and help make caring more sustainable. The Act puts in place measures to help people continue to care, for as long as they choose, in better health and to have a life alongside caring. This includes being able to enjoy a working life alongside their caring role.

NHS Education for Scotland (NES) and the Scottish Social Services (SSSC) have developed Core Principles for Working with Carers and Young Carers to inform the practice of health, social services and others with a role in identifying and supporting carers, including managers and policy makers. The Scottish Government is also working with Carers Scotland to deliver a Carer Positive award for employers who support carers in their workforce.

Caring Counts

The aim of the original Caring Counts course is to get carers thinking about themselves, who they are, where they are now, what they want to do in their present situation and how they can work towards doing what it is they want in the future. The focus is on identification of skills, qualities and attributes developed within a caring role and what carers have to say about their diverse learning needs.

Thinking about what you really want to do in this way, and finding out how to make it happen, can really change your life. This is true for anyone.

Caring Counts: a self-reflection and planning course for carers was produced by The Open University in Scotland, with and for carers, in collaboration with the Scottish Young Carers Services Alliance, together with individual carers and carer centres.

This course has been redeveloped in collaboration with the Equal Partners in Care project (Scottish Social Services Council and NHS Education for Scotland) and with Carers Scotland, drawing on the experience of a range of employers, to create Caring Counts in the Workplace. This new course reveals the reflections and experiences of participating carers, together with case studies and examples of employers who support carers in the workplace.

Reflection is a core element within the course: you’ll be able to share in the experience of carers from a wide range of backgrounds as they reflect on the impact of their caring roles. As you work through the course you will be invited to think about their reflections and circumstances and, in turn, reflect on your own experience and role as a manager or policy maker, colleague or mentor.

Caring Counts in the Workplace addresses some questions you may have about the challenges faced by the carers in your workforce, as they juggle their caring role with other aspects of their life, including work, study and leisure time. (You might even share some of these experiences yourself if you also have a caring role.)

By working through Caring Counts in the Workplace you’ll consider the implications for employees who have caring responsibilities. You’ll be invited to reflect on the implications for your own practice, for example your role in identifying and supporting carers in your workforce. You’ll complete the course by creating an action plan to develop your own practice, together with recommendations to influence policy and practice at a strategic level within your organisation.

The course will also help you to prepare for the Carer Positive award, if you are interested in applying for this, and to meet Level 3 of the EPiC core principles for working with carers and young carers.

Watch the short film ‘Caring Roles and Learning Lives’ to hear why reflection is valuable in terms of helping to recognise skills, qualities and attributes developed in a caring role. You will hear too about the importance of ‘me time’, which is not just about a break from caring responsibilities but also about taking up opportunities for personal development, including employment.

Download this video clip.Video player: caring_roles_and_learning_lives.mp4
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Louise Morgan, Scottish Young Carers Services Alliance
When someone becomes a carer, it may not be obvious to them and they may find themselves going down into the depths, before actually realising they’re a carer and that they are entitled to some kind of support. So that what we need to do with our support for carers is to help them make that experience the best that it possibly can be.
Jade, carer
I didn’t really realise I was a carer, I just kinda seen it as life. I’d seen a leaflet about young carers and I was like oh that sounds like a couple of people in my work. And I was reading it a bit more thoroughly and I was like, wait that actually sounds like me as well.
Dean, carer
I never ever labelled myself as that, it was almost, I wouldn’t say expected, I would honestly say that yeah – it’s expected. But it’s no something that I need to even think about, it’s just, he needs looking after, I’ll help him.
Emma Azzopardi, Carers Link East Dunbartonshire
A lot of them have been caring for whoever it is, whether it’s a family member or a friend for quite a number of years, and they might have been doing it since they were 7 years old. And to them it’s just the normal thing. They don’t refer to themselves as carers – they’re just doing what they would do for the person they love.
Sarah Burton, The Open University in Scotland
The experience we’ve had talking to carers is that just simply taking the time to sit back and reflect on what they’ve been doing can have a very positive effect on their confidence and self-esteem. Just sitting and naming and describing the achievements they’ve had in, just in, their caring role and getting through. That really makes them feel proud of what they’ve achieved and that gives them the sense of confidence to move on and make other decisions in their lives.
Lindsay Hewitt, The Open University in Scotland
The aim of this free online resource is to get people thinking about themselves, and their skills and abilities and qualities and thinking about where they are now.
Lesley, carer
I think I definitely became more confident after I did the OU course and the Reflections Toolkit. Confident enough that I could do the part-time studying and I just felt that it was something that I actually could do and that I could fit it in.
Katrina, carer
Well it’s two years on from that day and it’s a different, I’m living a different life. It’s almost unbelievable. I look back to two years ago and I can’t believe that I am where I am today. I never thought I’d see this day again.
Gavin Patterson, Renfrewshire Carers Centre
One of the things we look at in terms of reflection is the skills. What skills and attributes do they have. Where have they got those skills and attributes from. And generally it’s quite surprising for them because they tend to find that they have much more skills and attributes than they thought they did through their caring role.
Louise Morgan, Scottish Young Carers Services Alliance
It’s about making sure that carers can look back. What have they done? What have they learned? What skills have they developed from being a carer? And making sure that they’re aware of them and they’re able to sell that perhaps to an employer or to take them on into university or a college course.
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In the following sessions carers living in Scotland tell us about their experiences and how reflection has helped them. While some aspects of their stories and circumstances may chime with those of carers in your workforce (even perhaps your own), all their experiences and journeys, like yours, are unique.

What is reflection?