"My son Toby is autistic and I never thought of myself as a carer, I am his mum."

This week is Carers Week and the theme is making caring visible and valued. Read Carla's story to find out why we need your support. 

"My name is Carla and I found out first-hand how important it is to help people realise they are a carer and get support three years ago.

My son Toby is autistic and I never thought of myself as a carer, I am his mum.

Then, three years ago, my mum died. My mum had always been such a support to us all and we felt lost without her. Toby, who had started to go through adolescence, was really close to his grandma and didn’t understand where she had gone. He was really struggling and just wasn’t managing at school.

We decided he needed to go to a school that was more equipped to support him. This was taking a lot of my time and effort, and coupled with the demands of supporting Toby, I decided to resign from my job.  

I thought I was coping but one day in my GP’s office, I just broke down in tears. Everything had built up and I felt completely overwhelmed and alone. I had lost myself in caring for Toby. 

I had never thought there was help and support for someone in my situation and had been too busy to find out.

I was introduced to Carers First who were focused on me, asking me how I was. They helped me see how caring was affecting my wellbeing and helped me get the Carers Allowance. With encouragement from my husband, I decided to use this to pay for a gym membership. I had given this up when I left my job. I had always enjoyed the gym and it gave me time for myself.

Carers First were also really interested in my experience caring for Toby. They asked me to join their Carers Strategy group and valued my input. They helped me feel like I had something to give.

Toby secured a place at a new school and is so much happier. This, combined with the support from Carers First, gave me the confidence to go back to work. I am proud to write that I am now working part-time supporting other parents and carers in their caring role offering emotional support, connecting with them through lived experience to ensure they don’t feel alone.

You may not have realised it but by supporting Carers First, you have helped me feel visible and valued as a carer. Thank you so much. 

A gift of £15 today, or whatever you can afford, could help another mum like me get support such as through a Carers First parents support group."