Campaign launched to identify 90,000 'hidden' carers eligible for Covid jab
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A campaign has been launched to identify around 90,000 "unknown" carers in Norfolk and Waveney who are now eligible for their coronavirus vaccine.
The EDP has teamed up with Norfolk County Council (NCC) and Norfolk and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) in a bid to locate tens of thousands of unpaid carers in the area.
While it is thought there could be as many as 100,000 unpaid carers in Norfolk and Waveney, only around 10pc claim carer's allowance or have their carer status registered with GPs.
It means the remainder cannot be contacted automatically during the latest stage of the vaccination programme.
Group 6 of the priority list, which began receiving jabs last month, includes unpaid carers alongside people aged 16-64 with serious health conditions.
The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has defined carer eligibility as "anyone in receipt of a carer’s allowance; anyone who is the sole or primary carer of an elderly or disabled person who is clinically vulnerable to COVID-19, or whose welfare may be at risk if their carer falls ill.”
Health officials are therefore urging those who meet the criteria to register their contact details in order to be invited for an appointment.
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Melanie Craig, chief executive of Norfolk and Waveney CCG, said it was time for carers to go against their instincts and "put themselves first".
"There are a lot more who are largely hidden and that is who we are trying to reach," Ms Craig explained.
"For many people this is their life and what they do, so they don't think of it as anything other than that. They don't think of it as having a description.
"We are now asking people to put themselves first. That may not be what they naturally do if they are caring for someone else, but it is key to us being able to find you.
"Carers have provided such an outstanding contribution over this very challenging year. It has been so tough for so many people. This is an opportunity to give yourself some peace of mind."
While the vast majority of unpaid carers have not yet been identified, some have already been inoculated due to their place higher up the priority list.
Among them is Brenda Muse, a full-time carer for her husband, Alan, who suffers from a rare form of asbestos-related cancer called mesothelioma.
The 66-year-old, from Diss, believes the campaign could ultimately reward those in a similar position for their dedication and selflessness.
"It's a great idea, especially at a time when people have been feeling isolated," said Mrs Muse.
"I think with the tag, 'carer', people think of it as a job, but looking after a loved one is anything but a job. It's just something you do.
"When you love each other, you look after each other. In my case, care is there from the day you are married.
"Personally I don't think about myself at all. It is just something that is within me."
Those defined as carers and eligible for this round of vaccination are being encouraged to register online by visiting apps.norfolk.gov.uk/carervax.
Anyone without access to the internet can call a 24/7 phoneline on 01603 257256 and leave their details via voicemail.
The full definition of eligibility includes:
- Parents or primary carers of children and young people who are disabled and are clinically vulnerable to Covid-19
- Young carers aged 16+ of people who are elderly or clinically vulnerable
- People caring for someone with severe mental illness
The county council and CCG are also calling on paid carers who have not yet been offered the vaccine to get in touch using the aforementioned website.
James Bullion, executive director of adult social services at NCC, added: "The picture of a carer is often looking after someone older, but it relates to those with mental ill health or disabilities.
"Carers come in many shapes and sizes and, the thing is, they simply don't see themselves in that light. They just see themselves as family or friends.
"The fact is, we may be vaccinating people every year, so it is key we get this right the first time."
Carers living in other parts of Suffolk, beyond the Waveney area, should contact Suffolk Family Carers to register their details.