By April Brown – programmes manager, Creative Access
For Carers Week 2022 we want to remind our community about the findings of our Young Carers research and encourage employers to support carers in the workforce. April Brown who is both a carer and programmes manager here at Creative Access shares the benefits carers can bring to the creative workforce and the steps employers can take to make it more inclusive for them.
Have you ever cared for a friend or family member who, due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction cannot cope without your support? There are over one million young people in the UK who are trying to navigate their personal, academic and/or professional lives while facing the daily pressures of caring for someone who cannot look after themselves. Many of these young people are now doing so with increased pressure due to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.
Since 2012, Creative Access has been working to enable people from communities that are under-represented in the creative industries, to access careers, progress and reach leadership. We’re aware of the numerous barriers people face when working in the sector and we wanted to raise awareness today of the young carers and young adult carers in our community who deserve to be supported.
Support for young carers and young adult carers is needed more urgently than ever before due to the impact of coronavirus. A recent Carers Trust survey found that:
- 58% of young carers are caring for longer as a result of the pandemic and lockdown and are spending on average an additional ten hours a week or more on their caring role
- 78% of young adult carers aged 18 to 25 were experiencing an increased concern for their futures since Coronavirus
Our Young Carers survey and focus group was conducted to coincide with Young Carers Action Day on 14th March to help understand the impacts of caring responsibilities on emerging creative professionals who identify as carers and how we can better support their needs in the workplace.
This year, many creatives have started to transition to hybrid or in-person working practices after working in isolation for the last two years. Since 2020 we have had to adapt to social distancing, support bubbles and numerous lockdowns juggling domestic life with remote work and/or learning simultaneously. This exceptional period initially allowed us to slow down, reflect and shift our approaches to work and life, with some beneficial side effects. In December, we released our updated research highlighting the impact of covid-19 on under-represented communities with 26% of participants citing flexible working as a positive outcome of the pandemic, something that the majority of our young carers also identified as a huge help. It is important to remember that for many employees and freelancers this flexibility is still an integral factor towards being able to cope with work and caring responsibilities and that many of the people being cared for are still vulnerable and shielding. The pandemic isn’t over yet. It’s also important for employers to be aware of their duties under the Equality Act 2010 which states that a carer cannot be discriminated against on the basis of their association with a disabled person.
In the same vein, industry events have been adapted over the last two years to accommodate virtual audiences which allowed for greater opportunities to engage with local, national, and global communities. It would be a great disservice to those who aren’t physically able to participate if this wasn’t continued; especially as we have all become so familiar with virtual platforms like Zoom. 80% of the carers we surveyed felt like they had missed out on opportunities in their career due to caring responsibilities and 60% said they were unable to network or attend industry events.
Our findings also highlighted the unique skills and attributes that young carers can bring to the workplace with participants stating their empathy, time management, awareness of accessibility, patience, and crisis management abilities, as well as practical skills such as first aid training and Covid awareness.
Unlike parents, many carers are invisible in the workforce, reluctant to discuss their personal situation due to stigma and unaware of the support available to them. 30% of our respondents felt like they weren’t supported in the workplace and 10% couldn’t work due to their caring responsibilities. Caring is often less predictable than child-care. Flexible working policies need to include the flexibility to change arrangements as caring responsibilities change. They also need to recognise the possibility of emergencies arising.
Carers UK recommends the following tips to support carers in your workforce:
- Implement flexible working policies compliant with the current law, and allow as much flexibility for change as is consistent with business needs
- Review all your employment policies to ensure they are ‘carer friendly’
- Quote carers specifically in policies and other documentation or create a policy specifically for carers
- Nominate a key contact in the workplace
- Set up an internal carers group or forum – to allow carers to meet together occasionally
Michael Irwin – Co-Chair of Tate’s Parents & Carers Network upholds the value of an internal carers group:
“Tate has several staff networks for supporting staff and helping create connections across the institution which is vast. These consist of the BAME, LGBTQIA+,
disAbility, and Parent & Carers staff networks.
I joined the network, followed by becoming a co-chair, because I felt isolated in my team, not knowing who to ask for advice around Tate’s policies to support people in my situation. For example, I felt embarrassed when I was late for work commitments, hiding the real reason I was late which was because I was caring for my partner. Having a supportive, flexible and empathetic workplace is essential to maintaining the balance. It was only after joining the Parent and Carers network when I began to acknowledge and feel proud at defining myself as a carer, and through that confidence, I could share my experiences and gain the understanding and support from my team.
Being a Co-chair of the network, involves me meeting with my fellow co-chairs to plan our bi-monthly Parent and Carer’s network meetings which are open to everyone who works at Tate. We use those meetings to share worries, concerns and offer support and direction when navigating different working policies which can support parents and carers. We can also take these concerns to our Director sponsor who can help us action changes to Tate’s permanent employee policies. We also run guest speaker events and a series of events during carers week, with the aim of acknowledging those with caring responsibilities contribution to Tate whilst giving so much to others outside of work.
Most of us will be carers at some point in our lives, whether it’s for our parents, loved ones or becoming parents ourselves. So, it is important we keep in mind what others may be going through and approach our colleagues with kindness and empathy. By wider workplaces putting policies and general understanding in place to support Parents and Carers, it only benefits employees’ mental health and well-being and allows those with caring responsibilities to show the same dedication they show to others to their work without having to compromise on one or the other.”
This Carers Week take the time to ask carers, what will help them to successfully combine work and caring?
They can tell you what will really make a difference to their ability to do a good job for you and keep up with their caring responsibilities at the same time. There are often small and inexpensive things employers can do to help – such as:
- Allowing carers to leave mobile telephones on in meetings in case of emergencies
- Flexing start and finish times to help people deal with caring commitments before and after work
- Allowing carers time and access to a telephone to check on the person they care for from time to time during work hours
Surveys, focus groups and employee carer groups are all useful ways to find out what the carers you employ would value.
For more employer advice and ways to get involved in Carers Week 2022 visit:
Employers For Carers: https://www.employersforcarers.org/