Last Thursday, the day after it was vacated by the Conservative party hosting their conference in the city, Manchester’s prestigious Midland Hotel was the scene of an altogether different get-together.
For the first time in their 18 years of existence, Manchester Carers Forum hosted a glamorous black-tie dinner as a much-needed night off to reward all the carers across the region.
With carers estimated to save the country an astonishing £119 billion a year – in other words, effectively paying for the NHS on their own – Dave Williams, project manager at Manchester Carers Forum, stressed the importance of the event.
“This is the first major fundraising event we’ve gone,” he said. “We’ve done charity drives and celebrations before, but this is the first time that it’s been such a big occasion.”
He added: “We see it as a profile-raising event as much as a fundraiser – we hope it all works towards our main aim, to provide much-needed breaks for carers.”
Despite working full-time, Dave is also a carer for his partner, and according to the care calculator on Carers UK’s website it is estimated that he alone saves the country nearly £79,000 a year through his selfless support.
“There’s a lot more who do far more than me,” he said. “But it’s not a beauty contest – every carer makes a massive difference and they all need to be recognised more for the fantastic work they do.”
However, despite the physically, mentally and emotionally demanding nature of caring, the allowance for carers comes in at only £55.55 a week – less than unemployment benefits – and can only be claimed by over-16s caring for at least 35 hours a week earning under £100 a week and not in full-time education.
Manchester Carers Forum held a stall at the recent Tory conference and managed to speak to several key councillors and decision-makers close to David Cameron about the issue.
“We’ve smiled and we’ve gritted teeth!” he quipped, before adding that when he had face-to-face talks with Tory Ministers such as Michael Gove, Francis Maude and Baroness Warsi they were very interested in discussing carer’s situations.
“The Big Society is very much about localism, and we’ve expressed our views to them about how to ensure local agendas aren’t swallowed up,” he said. “We’ve got a very good working relationship with the local authority in Manchester, but there’s so much that needs to be done.”
Thursday’s swanky event – attended by local councillors, carers and organisations such as the Professional Footballers’ Association – was an important reminder of the significant yet often unsung role carers play in our society.
“I think it’s good we got so many different people in the same room together – it’s a bringing together of private and supportive bodies as well as carers,” said Dave. “Even in this economic climate we’re still active and we’re still here for them.”
With everyone in attendance digging deep for the silent auction, raffles and other fundraising activities throughout the night, it was a strong show of support for the tireless work of carers across Manchester.
“This is what we’ve been saying about the event, for all the carers who need a night out, a bit of credit for all their hard work,” said a thrilled Dave after the event.
“To all the carers out there, this is for you – because you’re worth it!”