27 November 2023

My first duty as Mayor last week was to visit the Carers’ Expo organised by local charity Carer Support Wiltshire, all day in the Civic Centre on Tuesday. This full day event was aimed at all the unpaid carers in our community. This could be an adult looking after an elderly infirm parent, a parent looking after a disabled child, a child looking after a disabled parent, or any other situation where someone in need of care is looked after in their home by anyone other than a paid (whether that be local authority provided or private agency) professional carer.

There are literally thousands of people in Wiltshire in this role. There are hundreds in Trowbridge. People who look after a family member with no reward and often very little support do it out of love or a feeling of duty. But that doesn’t mean that they don’t suffer, both emotionally and physically, from the pressures they find themselves under.

I know firsthand that the feelings of frustration, guilt, and emotional exhaustion for someone looking after an elderly, confused, and incapable parent can at times feel overwhelming. I also know firsthand just how isolated those carers can feel if the person they’re caring for doesn’t qualify for publicly funded support.

It’s not just a question of the cost of caring; it’s the fact that once the means test is over and the local authority has deemed the person needing care has enough income or savings to be “self-funded,” you (as the carer) also seem to lose access to the advice, guidance, and support that you desperately need.

But my experiences as an unpaid carer were some years ago, and I was very keen to spend some time at this “Expo” so that I could see what, if anything, had changed.

Oh my! What a revelation! Now I can’t definitively state that none of the help available from Carer Support Wiltshire wasn’t available six or seven years ago (when I could have done with it), but certainly if it was, I wasn’t aware of it.

The charity exists to help those unpaid carers in our community get the help and advice that they need. They have established very good relationships with official agencies, care equipment suppliers, care givers, hospices, respite providers, etc., and the list goes on.

The expo last Tuesday brought so many of these groups together in the Civic Centre to both make people aware of who they are and what they do as well as offer practical advice and assistance to those in need. There were seminars, talks, stalls, and information to take away. This was something that anyone who provides unpaid care would have greatly benefited from, and it was something that I sincerely hope we are able to regularly put on and publicise to the carers of Trowbridge and surrounding areas.

If you are an unpaid carer and would like more information on the help, guidance, support, and advice available through Carer Support Wiltshire, you can get a lot of information from their website at https://carersupportwiltshire.co.uk/

***

I think I’ve probably mentioned this before, but the alter ego of the Mayor of Trowbridge is Chair of the Town Council, so when a Full Council meeting was held on Tuesday evening, it fell to me to chair it.

As with all our Town Council meetings, be they the Full Council or any of its committees, the agenda is published on our website before the meeting and the minutes (once approved) afterwards.

Members of the public are always welcome to attend these meetings and often do. Tuesday was no exception, with two members of the public there to ask their Council questions. This sort of involvement in the Council’s affairs is very important; it is after all your Council, and you have every right to question it. Indeed, I’d go further. It is vital for the Council to be seen as being accountable to the residents of Trowbridge, so it is vital that the residents of Trowbridge engage with their Council.

So please, if you want to question YOUR Town Council on any aspect of their work, please come along to one of our meetings and make your voice heard!

***

Friday night, my wife and I were at the Trowbridge Town Bowls Club dinner and prize-giving held at the Rugby Club at Doric Park. It was a very relaxed and enjoyable evening, and despite the fact that I had been asked to wear the Civic chains, this was one of those occasions when you didn’t feel as if you were constantly “on parade.”

It was a really friendly and chatty evening that allowed me to catch up with a lot of folk that I’d first met back in May when the Bowls Club hosted a Council vs Members match to celebrate their centenary. I have to admit that while so many faces still looked familiar after six months, I had totally forgotten so many of the names that went with those faces. I quickly decided that there was no point trying to pretend otherwise, and I simply embarked on the strategy of just apologising and asking everyone I met to remind me what their name was!

***

That’s it for now, so until next time… keep safe, and please, be kind to each other.

 

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