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Your rights as a carer

Ahead of Carers Week, Hannah Flynn explains the support that pharmacists personally caring for a dependent adult can expect and where they can go for help

Two in five pharmacists who care for a dependent adult and who also have children are worried about the effect of stress and long hours on their health, according to survey results released by charity Pharmacist Support earlier this year. And next week's national Carers Week (June 13 to 19) will help once again to highlight the issues faced by these unsung heroes and heroines. As the C+D Salary Survey 2011 showed earlier this year, carers are not the only pharmacists feeling the pressure, but there are a number of particular areas where the burden of their additional roles as carers could be relieved by employers and other sources of help. Identifying yourself as a carer One problem pointed out by Pharmacist Support, which offers help to carers among other services, is knowing who carers are. "In some cases a person doesn't identify themselves as a carer," explains charity manager Diane Leicester. If you provide regular and substantial care for someone aged 18 or over, you can ask the social services department in your local council for a carer's assessment (see Where to go for help and further information, right). Your situation will be considered to see if you are entitled to any services that could make caring easier for you. Securing financial support The definition of a carer has legal implications if you want to try to access financial help, according to Andy Brown, chief executive of Manchester Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB), which works with Pharmacist Support. "An informal carer is defined in law as someone who provides unpaid support and is therefore not an employee," he says. "Informal carers are often family members, friends or neighbours, who provide substantial or regular care to a disabled, sick or older person." He explains that carers can in certain circumstances claim weekly benefits or payments under the direct payment scheme. Weekly benefits are available to people caring for a person who is severely disabled. The rules and eligibility for claiming are complex and specific individual advice is required, Mr Brown warns. Under the direct payment scheme, the disabled person can select a previously unpaid carer to be their personal assistant, changing the relationship into one of employer-employee, he explains. Pharmacist Support can also assist with a variety of grants, such as one-off expenses to improve quality of life, Ms Leicester explains. "For example, we have contributed to the costs of purchasing mobility aids and specially converted vehicles for those reliant on a wheelchair to get around, [and] with the purchase of a specially adapted chair for use by an elderly pharmacist living in a care home." Flexible working Since April 2007, you have had the right to request flexible working if you have had 26 weeks' continuous employment and you care for an adult who is a spouse, partner who you live with, civil partner, relative or another adult who lives at the same address as you. Flexible working could include job-sharing, part-time working or staggered hours, among other options. Your employer can reject the request only on eight specific business grounds, explains Ben Smith, an associate at law firm Charles Russell – including the burden of additional costs, inability to organise work among existing staff, a detrimental effect on ability to meet customer demand and a detrimental impact on quality. Time off in emergencies Carers are also entitled to "reasonable" unpaid time off work to deal with emergencies involving dependants. What is a "reasonable" amount of time off will depend on individual circumstances, but Mr Smith says case law dictates that in the vast majority of cases this would be no more than a few hours, at most one or two days. But it is dependent on the emergency and not the inconvenience to the employer, he stresses. Mr Brown warns that these provisions must be used carefully. "[Disciplinary issues] would be less likely if the employer was fully aware of why this might be happening," he concluded. Where to go for help and further information Apply for a carer's assessment http://tinyurl.com/carersassessment Carers UK www.carersuk.org The Princess Royal Trust for Carers www.carers.org Listening Friends Pharmacist Support's helpline, staffed by trained volunteer pharmacists. "It may be that off-loading some of one's worries or issues at the end of the day can help relieve the pressure faced and enable the individual to continue to provide the support needed from them as a carer," says charity manager Dianne Leicester. www.pharmacistsupport.org Tel: 0808 168 5133 Citizens Advice Bureau Through referral by Pharmacist Support, pharmacists can use the Manchester CAB for benefits, debt and employment advice. You can also contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau. www.citizensadvice.org.uk www.adviceguide.org.uk ACAS The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) provides employment advice. www.acas.org.uk Tips for your CPD entry on carers' rights Reflect Do I understand my rights as a carer for a dependent adult? Plan Read this article and consider where I can source more support for my role as a carer. Act Contact relevant organisations and explain my situation to my employer. Evaluate Do I better understand my rights as a carer of a dependent adult?

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