Strengthening the voice of carers

EVIDENCE from over 600 unpaid family carers in Edinburgh and Midlothian has been published by local carer organisation VOCAL (Voice of Carers Across Lothian) in a report which reflects the diversity of caring experiences in the capital, and priority needs for future carer support.

VOCAL took the decision to publish and distribute the report as it gives a voice to over 1,700 individual carer comments and views which should be of interest to Council and NHS planning and commissioning officers and many service providers.

Patrick Layden QC, Convenor of the Board and himself a carer, introduced the report:

“Eighty-seven per cent of carers rated the quality of VOCAL’s response as either excellent or good, and 81 per cent reported it made a positive difference to their caring role. This provides reassurance to us and our funders that we are making a positive difference to the lives of carers.

”But more importantly, this survey provides strong messages for future services.  First, carers require more support with the emotional and practical impacts of caring.  Second, many carers increasingly struggle financially: they need more support to plan financially for the future, and to maximise benefits and income.  A growing number need help to deal with mounting debts.”

Between 2001 and 2008, the number of carers living in Edinburgh and Lothian increased from 71,040 to 92,777 and is set to rise further as public services shift caring responsibilities to individuals and families. Increasingly, carers are asking what support they will receive to manage this responsibility.

The report highlights the importance of increased support for carers in areas such as emotional support, training and information. This is reflected in many of the responses, including one from a carer who says;

“I appreciate the support given by VOCAL when I need it. As a carer it’s easy to feel frustrated or isolated . . . I feel there should be a lot more awareness raised so that carers are fully supported financially, emotionally and socially.”

VOCAL chief executive, Sebastian Fischer, says: ”Regular consultation and carer engagement is an essential part of VOCAL’s work. We are very grateful to the large number of carers who took the time to contribute to this survey. Carers are still being marginalised, and all too often, carers speak, but are not heard. We hope this report can help to strengthen their voice.”

Copies of the report are available from VOCAL’s website ( ), or by contacting VOCAL on 0131 622 6666, email:


Notes to Editors­­­

1. Carers and VOCAL
VOCAL – Voice of Carers Across Lothian – is an organisation run by carers for carers.

A carer is someone who provides unpaid care to a relative, partner or friend who is elderly or requires help to manage a long term illness, disability, physical or mental health problems or addiction.

VOCAL manages the Edinburgh Princess Royal Trust Carers Centre and supports carers by providing information and advice, training, advocacy, counselling and carer workshops. Further information on VOCAL is available online:

2. VOCAL Carer Survey Report
The survey was sent to 4,248 carers who are in contact with VOCAL. 611 carers replied – a response rate of 14 per cent. The report sets out carers’ responses to open and set questions, and reproduces all substantive comments. In addition to questions about VOCAL’s services, carers were asked questions about finance and employment, and to rate the importance of a number of services and support.

Key figures:

Breakdown of carer who took part in the survey:

  • 53% of respondents were over 60 years of age
  • 37% under 60 years of age  (10% did not specify)
  • 74% live in Edinburgh
  • 19% live in Midlothian
  • 6% live outside Edinburgh or Midlothian (1% did not specify)

81% of carers reported that the help received from VOCAL made a positive difference to them. Support rated as most useful included:

  • training courses, group meetings, peer support (36% of respondents)
  • information including Carers News and VOCAL’s website and e-bulletin (25%)
  • financial advice and legal support, including help to fill in forms (14%)
  • counselling (7%)

When asked about issues relating to finance and employment, carers who answered this question said the following were issues:

  • improving income (74% of respondents)
  • planning financially for the future (65%)
  • paying for or planning for long term care (63%)
  • managing or reducing personal debt (36%)
  • remaining in paid employment (32%)
  • entering or re-entering paid employment (23%)
  • accessing training or volunteering to lead to paid employment (23%)

Carers were asked about the importance they attach to 9 different service areas, and carers who answered this question said the following were important:

  • Booklets, newsletters, regular information (95% of respondents)
  • Emotional support and counselling (91%)
  • Carer support groups (89%)
  • Website and support to find information online (85%)
  • Carer advocacy (87%)
  • Stress management courses (82%)
  • Training and learning opportunities (77%)
  • Healthy living initiatives (diet, exercise, weight) (79%)
  • Social and leisure opportunities (76%)

3. Media contact

Rosie McLoughlin, Information and Communications manager, VOCAL, 0131 622 6666,

Contact: Rosie McLoughlin
Phone: 0131 622 6666