Carers Week – 10 to 16 June – aims to help carers feel connected.
There are 6.5 million carers in the UK, according to Carers Week, looking after a friend or family member with a disability, physical illness or who needs more help in old age.
Hear from carers who work at Network Rail about how they support each other:
“I was going through a really difficult time. My dad had had a stroke and my mum had died suddenly so my sister and I became carers over night for our dad.”
Jackie Robb (pictured with her father), co-chair of Myriad, Network Rail’s employee network for carers, recalls when she found herself in need of support from colleagues.
“Then very sadly my sister’s husband became very poorly with an aggressive form of leukemia and we brought him home for his end of life care.
“My line manager at the time had given me fantastic support and it was him who mentioned Myriad to me. I went along to the first meeting and realised that not all of Network Rail employees got the same support so I wanted to help where I could.”
Myriad is the network for employees with caring responsibilities. One of six employee networks at the company, it aims to support carers, value their work and promote an understanding culture. Members share experiences and help each other navigate Network Rail policies and external support mechanisms.
Ruth Thomas, co-chair with Jackie, joined Myriad shortly after its launch in 2014. She said: “I’m a carer myself – I have two autistic children. I got involved in the leadership a year later when I saw an opportunity to help shape Network Rail’s developing support for carers.”
Today the network has more than 180 members and hopes to increase awareness of its work to more employees. Jackie said: “We have no particular figure in mind but we know there must be more carers at Network Rail.”
One in eight adults in the UK is a carer, according to charity Carers UK. That’s about 6.5 million people – a figure expected to rise to nine million by 2037. Every day another 6,000 people take on a caring responsibility – equivalent to more than two million people a year.
Ruth (pictured with her youngest son) and Jackie balance their commitments to Myriad against their caring responsibilities and full-time jobs.
The pair have significant goals for Myriad despite the demands on their time. These include changes to company policies to better support carers, providing one to one help for members who are often at crisis point when they seek individual support, and working with other networks to develop line manager training. The latter would involve specific training for line managers regarding conversations with carers and some of their legal obligations.
Myriad has recently attracted several new leadership members, providing much needed boost to its capacity. Jackie said: “This doesn’t sound like a major achievement but we have always struggled to get and keep team members because carers find it really difficult, even if they want to help, to fit everything in.”
Myriad frequently takes part in activities with external organisations such as Milton Keynes-based Carers MK; children’s charity Barnardo’s; Sibs, a charity for sibling carers, and Employers for Carers, part of Carers UK. Employers for Carers has a portal accessible by Network Rail staff. Myriad also attends a quarterly meeting and networking event held by Employers for Carers.
Among Myriad’s biggest achievements to date is input to 11 different diversity impact assessments in one year. These are assessments Network Rail carries out when making any changes that may affect staff, as part of its public sector equality duty.
Consulting with the employee networks is one of the things people completing such assessments can do to make sure they haven’t overlooked impacts on people with so-called protected characteristics, which include carers for disabled people.
Myriad has produced two guides for managers of carers and managers of bereaved employees aimed at improving awareness of carers’ responsibilities and how the organisation can help them.
Furthermore, the employee network is helping to inform Network Rail's diversity and inclusion work across its routes.
This Carers Week, Myriad is holding a coffee morning for carers and anyone wishing to find out more information about caring responsibilities.
Myriad also took part in Everyone Week from 1 to 5 October last year. The Network Rail event showcases and celebrates diversity, providing an opportunity to raise awareness about relevance of diversity and inclusion to everyone at the company.