How Norfolk’s hidden carers are missing out on help

Thursday, June 12, 2014
8:44 AM

Carer John Cook and his wife Maureen who has dementia. Photo by Simon Finlay.

Jack Diplock-Cass is the Young Carers Champion at Great Yarmouth College. He helps look after his two brothers.

One in nine people in Norfolk is thought to be a carer, but many fail to recognise themselves as such and are missing out on vital help.

Young carer Jack Diplock-Cass

Jack Diplock-Cass didn’t realise he was a young carer until last year.

The 18-year-old helps his mum look after his brothers Sean, 17, who has deficits in attention, motor control and perception, and Colby, 10, who has autism.

While Jack, who lives near Northgate Street in Great Yarmouth, had done his best to cope, the strain took its toll on his social life, schoolwork and his health.

He said: “I was shy. A year ago there was no way I could have spoken to someone about being a carer.

“I wasn’t very outgoing as you don’t have much time to socialise and go out.

“When I was doing GCSEs I found it difficult to find time for revision and to socialise with friends. I tried to organise a routine, but that stressed me out a lot.” At one stage he even experienced depression and anxiety.

But a meeting with the student finance advisor at Great Yarmouth College, where he now studies information technology, helped to identify him as a young carer.

He was put in touch with Norfolk Carers Support, and as well as helping him to balance his caring role with his studies, social life and even getting a part-time job, his support worker Louise has also put him in contact with Mind and the Great Yarmouth and Gorleston Young Carers (GYGYC) group, which arranges meetings and trips out.

Jack said: “It’s given me confidence to speak to other people and recognise I’m not the only young carer out there and there are people in the same boat as me. I have come out of my shell more.”

Now Jack is the young carers champion at the college, and as well as organising lunches for carers, he lobbies on their behalf, for example arranging for them to be allowed to keep their mobile telephones on in class in case of an emergency.

He said: “We need to identify more young carers as so many are hidden. I didn’t realise I was a young carer, it was just something I did every day.”

Other help for young carers includes a service commissioned by the council and local NHS from Families House, which provides one-to-one intensive support to young carers and their families.

The service seeks to address crisis issues in the short term, and then to signpost and support young carers and their families to longer-term

support. Norfolk County Council also commissions 26 young carers support groups, which are currently provided by the Benjamin Foundation.

The most recent estimate puts the number of unpaid carers in Norfolk at 94,700.

And it is thought it would cost a staggering £1.6bn to fund the cost of replacing the care they provide.

Lin Mathews, Age UK Norfolk’s information and advice manager, said: “I think you don’t always realise that if you are a husband or a wife you can also be a carer.

“Often, people see themselves as a husband and that’s what they said they would do – care for the person they married.

‘Now it’s my job to care for her’

For the past decade, John Cook has been caring for his wife Maureen.

The couple, who live on the Heartsease estate in Norwich, have been married for 50 years and are former publicans.

Maureen was eventually diagnosed with Pick’s disease, or frontal lobe dementia, in 2007, and John says it has affected her memory and her language skills.

While Maureen can still play cards and do sudoku puzzles, the woman who was once fluent in German and French can now say barely anything at all.

John, 74, said: “She was always the one who organised us, did the correspondence and everything when we were running the pub.

“Now it’s my job to care for her.”

Three years after Maureen was diagnosed, Age UK helped John to claim attendance allowance. John spends every minute of every day with Maureen, who is 72, but his lifeline is in attending a wide range of support groups and activities with his wife, in particular the Come Singing sessions.

While John has coped admirably over the past decade, he knows he may have to have an operation himself in the future, and he is trying to plan who will care for Maureen when that happens. He is also considering a house move as he knows it will only get harder for him to continue to care for Maureen in their current home.

He said: “I wish I had a bit more money to downsize into something that would be really good for us.

“I have got to be practical and keep my fingers crossed and hope we find something that will be okay for both of us.”

“They don’t recognise the term carer as being relevant to them and see it more perhaps as someone who is paid to care, such as a care worker.”

She said accessing help can sometimes be confusing, as many carers do not realise that even if the person they look after does not qualify as having a critical or substantial level of need in the eyes of the local authority, they can still access help as a carer.

Mrs Mathews said she would be particularly keen to see more carers identified by GPs and given information about where they can get support for what can be an exhausting and isolating role which can impact on a carers’ own health.

As part of the week, there will be the first ever national Young Carers awareness day tomorrow.

Carer John Cook and his wife Maureen who has dementia.

Norfolk has experienced a 32.5pc rise in the number of young carers, meaning our county has the second highest number of carers in the Eastern region, after Essex.

It is estimated that there could be as many as 12,000 young carers in the county, yet only 400 receive support through county council- funded services.

In Norfolk, there is now a helpline, run by the Carers Agency Partnership, which aims to provide a single point of contact for carers to call for information, advice and support.

Sue Whitaker, chairman of the adult social care committee at Norfolk County Council, said: “We helped set up the Carers Agency Partnership to be a universal service for carers in Norfolk, so that anyone, regardless of their situation or level of need, can get information, advice and support.

“There are a lot of ‘hidden carers’ in Norfolk, people who perhaps assume there isn’t help available for them, or worry about what form that help will take.

“Having one carers service for Norfolk, and a dedicated helpline, means people can be offered support that’s tailored to their own needs.”

•Carers can call the Norfolk Carers Helpline on 0808 808 9876 for information and referrals for the county’s new Carers Support Service, which started last July.

The single service, funded by Norfolk County Council and the five NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups in Norfolk and Waveney, aims to make it easier for people to find information and get support in their caring role, wherever they may be in the county. The service works with volunteers and other organisations to provide one-to-one support, carers groups, short breaks and the information and advice people need to continue providing care. It is provided by eight experienced, local carers’ organisations and charities which came together last summer to found the Carers Agency Partnership (CAP).

Since being set up last summer, the CAP has received more than 8,012 enquiries, provided 3,089 one-to-one support activities. and enabled 859 short breaks for carers.

The partnership has published a new edition of Are You Looking After Someone? The Carers’ Handbook for Norfolk 2014-15. It includes practical advice on finance, getting about and taking a break and has a range of useful contacts.

A copy of the handbook can be requested by ringing the helpline, or it can be downloaded from

There are a number of volunteering opportunities within CAP.

For further information, contact Ryan Hughes by email at or call

07443 522486.