At the end of September the Daily Mail ran a report on ‘Britain’s Social Care Crisis’. Feelings of depression, loneliness and insomnia were the main effects felt as a result of caring duties landing at the feet of mainly women.

An NHS Survey which formed the basis of the write-up revealed of the 50,800 unpaid carers surveyed, 68% of them are female with half of respondents citing their sleeping and eating habits affected*. Later the article cites Alzheimer’s and elderly care charities identifying many women having to leave work to care for their families.

The story about care is one which is universal. Many are currently receiving it, many are giving it and in time there will be many more to step up to fill these two co-existent roles.  Being a carer is intertwined with the cross positions of being both a giver and having something taken from you - be it time, money, sleep or balance.

At Cherry Trees we know about this ‘issue’, with many mums and dads actively ‘caring’ for a child and then a young adult with disabilities over many many years. As a charity working in the field of respite care our primary objective is to prevent family break-up. What underpins this bold and heroic quest I hear you ask?

Many of the families that come to us are often at a point whereby they feel like they can’t carry on. They are worn out, exhausted and struggle to make time for anything beyond caring. Even something so small to most of us like ‘popping into the supermarket’ isn’t so straight forwards for a family that has a child with a disability.

The range, rarity, extent, needs and demands of each and every-one of the different disabilities we see in the 100+ plus children we care for at Cherry Trees are all linked by one factor – the children all require care and supervision and because of this their families need a break.

First-hand accounts given by some of our families in our own recent research looking into the benefits of a child coming for a 24 hour overnight stay at Cherry Trees revealed stressors common to the national issue at large.

Lots of families tell us about endless nights of interrupted sleep. One parent told us about her daughter waking her up 3 times a night, re-settling her each time before getting up to go out to work the next morning. Others may not have explicitly cited feeling isolated but in describing not being able to ask their own aged parents for help with child care, because their child is too much for their physical limitations to cope with, it’s not hard to see how lonely life can be.

When asked about the benefits a family gets from their child coming to Cherry Trees, so often meals and enjoying good food are top of the list. A chance to pick what they would like to eat, to eat in peace with no noise or to give another sibling some attention. Something so simple as a parent telling us they had the time to cook a Sheppard’s pie or to invite friends round for a catch-up – they aren’t big things, but they are the kinds of things that get swallowed up by full time care.

This autumn Cherry Trees has proudly signed up to a brand new coalition called the Disabled Children’s Partnership. Over 70 charities and organisations all working in the field of disabilities are asking the Government for £434M funding for support services for families. It’s not good enough that 7 in 10 parents have never received any support. With the coalition shining the light on the realities of daily life for a family that has a child with a disability, one day we may reach a point whereby there are more places like Cherry Trees out there for families. Please have a look at their site and sign their petition to help more families receive support and spread the sense of care.

*source: Mail online, Monday 30th September 2019 report entitled: ‘Women are being driven to the brink of Britain’s social care crisis, with shocking figures revealing female carers are at higher risk of depression, loneliness and insomnia’.