South Tyneside Council People Select Committee this week were given a report on support in place for carers in the region as part of their Commission on Poverty.
Councillors heard the latest figures show 3,564 people are claiming carers allowance in South Tyneside, which has seen a 10% increase between May 2018 and November 2020.
This means the area has the fourth-highest level of claimants in the region, per 100,000 of the population, higher than both national and North East averages.
The latest census data for the region showed that in 2011 there 16,740 people providing some level of unpaid care in South Tyneside.
Hazel Cuthbertson, service manager for Adults and Integrated Care at the council, led a presentation highlighting steps being taken to support carers in the region.
She warned of local challenges currently faced, including identifying carers, adding they are not aware of the total number of carers in South Tyneside, or how many are living in poverty or with financial difficulties.
She said: “A lot of the challenges that carers have is because of trying to get support for the cared for person, and trying to manage all of that alongside full time work, it’s a significant issue.
“It’s quite often the financial challenges come because they’re trying to get the support that they need for the care, which is a bigger challenge.”
However she noted there is currently a South Tyneside Carers Strategy in development, featuring priorities such as increasing awareness and take-up of Government financial help for carers and providing employment support.
Support is also being developed to identify training courses to commission to help them return to employment.
At the meeting Karen Nunn, a carer in South Tyneside, recalled issues she faced with the current system in the region, and highlighted areas for improvement.
She said: “Employers need to support massively, because that’s a big issue, employers at the top of the tree, not further down.
“It needs to be integrating and encompassing the whole thing.”
Dan Robinson, from South Tyneside Adult Carers Service, warned there are social difficulties carers face.
He said: “When you have to give up work to be a carer, you tend to become more and more isolated, you’re missing out, work’s not always identified as being a social aspect, but it is.”
Councillors echoed the importance of addressing the issue of supporting carers, with Cllr Ann Best also highlighting the social impact and how early intervention is key.
She said: “Early intervention is quite critical here, because it’s so consuming once you go down that road of trying to get that support, and coming up against these barriers that are so clearly causing a lot of stress.”
Cllr Anne Hetherington, lead member of the cabinet for independence and wellbeing, stressed she would work with officers to implement any recommendations as much as possible.
She said: “I think it’s extremely important we do offer that care and support to carers because they are providing such a fantastic service for the residents of South Tyneside.”