Pandemic-invisibility: Suffolk, Covid & unpaid Carers

Despite the Covid pandemic ,it seems that Suffolk’s family carers remain officially hidden, and officially unsupported. In this county – as in this country – this is a disgrace.

A recent SCC briefing on the subject merely said: “One of the challenges at this time is helping carers to explore the options for having a care ‘back-up’ or contingency plan, should circumstances change and alternative care be necessary for the cared for adult.  While not new to discussions with carers, the prospect of carers knowing people in their network, or community is especially important during a pandemic of this sort. “ In other words: “Hop to it, Cinderella! Go find your replacement!”

Disingenuously, this  wording suggests that a full-time  unpaid family carer has made a positive career decision and  is actually in the position to form a strong support network within their community and to leverage it to the unlimited free care cover that the state has expected from them. I cannot tell you how angry this makes me.

So, who will elect to do this massive amount of care unpaid? How many senior members of county or country administration will come forward and publicly commit to taking over the unpaid, unacknowledged 24/7 care of an anonymous local resident with significant needs? Don’t all shout at once, eh?

Come off it! We all know it is not a realistic plan for the county ( or indeed the country)  to expect  unpaid carers to source other replacement unpaid carers to cover their own isolation/ sickness/death from Covid19 on top of everything else they do.To articulate this expectation is not only unrealistic, it is inappropriate in the extreme.

At the best it can only put extra stress on already over-stressed individuals. At the worst it might make them lose all hope. How will – how can – a sole carer looking after eg a spinally complicated quadriplegic do this? Or the elderly, physically frail, carer of a partner with dementia?  Or the unacknowledged child carer of a troubled adult?

We should be deeply disturbed that Suffolk’s message is that if you are a lone and unsupported carer, looking after somebody who is vulnerable because the state is not coming forward to assist, the county merely reiterates that it is this carer’s responsibility to  go out and find someone else to look after (for free) the person they care for (for love and duty).

This briefing is a distancing manoeuvre rather than practical help in a pandemic.  More, it is a gross abrogation of moral responsibility by authorities elected to safeguard our society.

Worryingly, Suffolk’s Plan B seems to be to tell concerned councillors “If you are worried about an individual, do report them to Home But Not Alone.”

But what about all those who are under the radar? I am not concerned about ‘an individual’. If I know about ‘an individual’ it is possible to provide support. I am worried about all those other individuals – the sole carer of a spinally complicated quadriplegic, say, the elderly, physically frail, carer of a partner with dementia, the unacknowledged child carer of a troubled adult- that we simply do not know – the ones who are home alone.

CarersUK estimates there were 8.8million unpaid carers in the UK in 2019: 13% of the population. That’s approx 100,000 Suffolk carers (possibly more as Suffolk has an older population than the country as a whole). Suffolk Family Carers confirm they only have 14,000 of these carers on their books – and this includes people like me, whose maximum caring responsibilities are currently reduced.

The state has no official method of identifying family carers beyond whether they claim Carers Allowance or not. But many carers are not eligible (students, pensioners, people earning more than £120 per week, children ,etc).  Within the unidentified category are many of the most vulnerable: lone parents of disabled children; hidden child carers of adults with poor physical or mental health or addiction issues; and older persons looking after older partners/spouses, both with poor health – and all of these caring 24/7. Such carers have increasingly frail support networks, particularly vulnerable to breakdown at this time. Many are living lives of quiet desperation.

In my own 20 years’ experience as 24/7 unpaid family carer, no elected body, either local or national, has wished to challenge or address these statistics because it leaves them obliged to recognise the magnitude of the underlying problem. (And deal with it. )They edge away like a cat that has inadvertently put its paw near something strong-smelling.

SO  can we do anything? I believe  we can! Suffolk  – at county, district, ccg and other levels, has various lists which would allow an overarching interest (should one exist!)  to piece together a patchwork index of vulnerable persons. No, not the 1.5 million shielded people  –  of whom I am one. We may be vulnerable  to covid, but often far from vulnerable financially or societally. The real vulnerable people. I  urge our county – as I urge our country – to go further and ask each individual parish to start at once to try and identify their f local hidden carers- house by house, street by street – and report back. We could ask  the media to get involved and make this a whole-county initiative. Better, a whole country one.

Many family carers are invisible behind closed doors. We must identify them, because otherwise, while our society is under its current great stress , they can literally be dying behind closed doors, unsupported.

Latest county and town news, Woodbridge, April 2020

COVID-19 Update

– Stay Home – Protect the NHS – Save Lives

Latest Government advice:
Latest Suffolk County Council information:

Woodbridge Emergency Response Group Woodbridge has set up and is running an efficient and effective volunteer and help group with an amazing community response. We have roughly 700 clients and volunteers at the moment. Remember, people can ring to register either to volunteer or to help on 01394 383599 (answered 9-6 daily, with an overnight answerphone), or email

Additionally, a Suffolkwide app and phoneline has been launched . For residents outside the Woodbridge area Suffolk has launched Home But Not Alone, a scheme intended to connect volunteers and vulnerable people via free app, called Tribe Volunteer, which can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. (Please note for ID purposes, the icon is a square with tribe across it, and two yellow-brown curves below it) If you are in Suffolk but outside the greater Woodbridge area you should phone. The telephone number for those in need of help is the same as for volunteering: freephone 0800 876 6926. The intention is that it will be staffed from 09:00 to 17:00, seven days a week. The service will mean willing volunteers, charities, town and parish councils, community and religious groups can all log their details and offers of support on an app, while people who need help can phone to request support. 

School closures and free school meals More information about school closures in Suffolk is available here:

A Voucher scheme has been launched for schools providing free school meals – Families are being offered weekly shopping vouchers worth £15 to spend at supermarkets while schools are closed due to coronavirus. The government has also confirmed that the total value of vouchers offered to each eligible child per week will exceed the rate it pays to schools for free school meals, recognising that families will not be buying food in bulk and may therefore incur higher costs.

Effective immediately, schools will be able to order vouchers directly from supermarkets or shops in their communities to be emailed or printed and posted to families; they will have their costs covered by the Department for Education.

Bus passes can now be used before 9:30 Suffolk County Council is allowing concessionary travel for those with elderly and disabled bus passes before 9.30am. This is to allow these residents to access the exclusive early morning shopping times that supermarkets have arranged for these people. Of course, only helpful when those early morning timings match up with actual bus availability.

Public transport services reduced New timetables are now in place for most public transport services, including buses, trains and community transport until further notice. Suffolk County Council is advising those who ned to use public transport to check with their local provider to find out the latest timetable.

Further details can be found at or by calling 0345 606 6171.

Funding available for food banks Suffolk County Council has made £60,000 available to support food banks in Suffolk

– Stay Home – Protect the NHS – Save Lives –

Other news
Suffolk County Council submits bid for Government funding for buses Suffolk County Council has submitted a statement of intent to the Department of Transport (DfT) for £580k to improve some of the county’s bus services.

The council has not yet released details of how they plan to spend this funding. However, we understand that they are not intending to use it to reinstate the subsidised bus services which were cut last summer.

The DfT planned to announce which statements of intent have been successful by the end of April, but it is likely that this will be delayed given the current situation.

EDF Energy delay application for Sizewell C Development Consent Order EDF Energy have decided to delay their application for a Development Consent Order for Sizewell C by a few weeks, due to the current situation.

In March, my LibDem Green and Independent group were planning to submit a motion asking Suffolk County Council to withdraw support for nuclear power and publicly oppose Sizewell C. However, the Council meeting in March was cancelled. This means that our motion has also been delayed, but we plan to submit it again at the earliest opportunity once meetings at the council start up again. We are concerned however that an application may yet be put in before this time.

Opt-in for 2020/21 free school transport Parents are now able to opt-in if eligible for free transport for the 2020/21 school year. This will be the second year of the new school transport policy. The deadline for opting-in is 31 May 2020.

If parents have a child who is already receiving SCC funded school travel, they must opt-in again to continue to receive it.

Parents whose child is not eligible for SCC funded school travel but who wish to purchase a spare seat, may do so. The application for spare seats opens on 1 July 2020.

To opt-in or for more information on the SCC school travel policy please visit;

SCC wins DfT funding for next stage of A12 works Suffolk County Council won £830,000 of funding from the Department for Transport, to develop an Outline Business Case to take forward its plans to improve the A12 East of Ipswich. Obviously this is of interest to us in Woodbridge.

This project is specifically looking to increase capacity and improve overall traffic flow at junctions and will explore the potential for a new pedestrian and cycle bridge over the A12.