Weekly Update: Definition of 'Carer'

A growing number of organisations are beginning to understand the importance of supporting their members of staff with caring responsibilities. But what exactly is a carer? Do you have a clear and accurate definition? What about your employees?

Caring situations can involve helping those who are elderly or infirm, have chronic illness; a disability or special needs; mental illness, including dementia or Alzheimer's; or have issues with substance misuse.

You can care for a family member as well as friends and neighbours. While many carers will live with or near the person they care for, others may do it remotely. 

Since caring situations can vary greatly from person to person, many people with caring responsibilities do not even think of themselves as carers. Instead they might use terms like:
“looking after”
“helping”
“checking in on”
“keeping an eye on”
“staying with”

 If your organisation has working practices or policies that are aimed at carers, it can be useful to include a clear definition of what “carer” means. This way staff members with caring responsibilities can see their situation reflected in company policies and practices and get a clear understanding if these policies and practices are relevant to them.

Here is a good example definition from Voluntary Action Shetland:
“A carer is anyone who cares, unpaid, for a family member or someone in their household who, due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction cannot cope without their support.”

 Once your organisation has decided on a definition, remember to promote it throughout your workplace. Seasonal events such as Carers Week and Carers Rights Day are great times to do this but make sure it is accessible all year round too. This way working carers will know that your organisation is sympathetic to their situation and that support is available to them should they need it.