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I have been asked to write about my experience speaking to MPs during Carers Week 2022 as part of an event with Carers Trust and other charities.

I thought I’d tell you a little about me first.

My name is Vanessa and I’m a carer for four members of my family and a friend. I like to help people and that's part of why I am a carer. I have looked after my brother most of my life as our parents aren’t around. He is on the autistic spectrum and has Crohn's disease so I have to inject him with medication every 14 days and do all his paperwork etc.

A few years ago my daughter had severe mental health problems caused by prior trauma and physical health. She got diagnosed with an emerging unstable personality disorder so I started to care for her in more ways than any mum should. Her dad left us and has not been part of her life for several years.

Since the beginning of the pandemic my elderly aunt and uncle have come to rely on me to help with everything they now have to do online (they do not have smart phones or internet at home). Also a friend with diabetes became very isolated and I started to have regular calls and visits to check on his welfare.

I found there was little support for carers and what there was, can be hard to find. That’s why the support of Carers First has meant so much. Carers First have helped me in lots of ways including information and advice, peer support and a grant to give me time for myself, which I used for a spa day with my daughter.

On Wednesday 8 June, I joined several other carers to speak to MPs at Portcullis House as part of a Carers Week event. It was an opportunity to highlight the many challenges facing carers and suggest ways MPs can help.

I shared how I cannot get any financial support because I work alongside caring. I explained the time I take to care for everyone means that I lose over £10,000 per year in hours that I cannot work.

We came up with two ideas on how MPs could help carers financially. One, a regular payment to unpaid carers like child benefit or Disability Living Allowance. This would not be means tested but you must earn under £50k pa. Second, a tax break so that if you do work you can pay less tax.

I found the MPs were mostly very willing to listen to our experience and ideas. One MP from Wales told us that they already pay family carers there and do not charge for hospital parking (which is a big part of our lives also). Another MP asked us about our holidays, both of us at the table said that that day out was our holiday! We do not get to have breaks.

It was a lovely afternoon and great to feel less invisible.

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