Communications: Campaign of the week - Carers urged to 'work, restand play'

Nearly three out of four carers who also work use their annual leave to concentrate on their caring role, according to a survey published to mark the launch of Carers Week.

The theme of this year's awareness campaign, which takes place from 13 to 19 June, is 'work, rest and play'. It draws attention to the difficulties faced by carers who balance work with looking after a sick or disabled relative. Two-thirds of the 2,900 carers interviewed by Carers Week organisers ahead of the campaign believe their career prospects have been affected as a result.

The organisers want to highlight the need for the UK's six million carers to have time to themselves. They released a second survey showing that 75 per cent of Premiership football clubs offer free admission to carers when they accompany disabled people, in the hope that other parts of the leisure industry will do the same.

A number of celebrities - many of whom, such as Cilla Black, Esther Rantzen and BBC presenter Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, have been carers themselves - have given their backing to the campaign. "It can be physically, emotionally and financially draining, which is why it's vital that carers get the support they need," said Llewelyn-Bowen.

Carers Week also aims to raise awareness of carers' right to have their needs assessed by their local authorities, following the implementation of the Carers Act in April.

"The new Carers Act is a big step on the way to a better deal for carers," said Mike O'Donovan, chief executive of the MS Society. "Now local authorities must take up the challenge of helping to make it work. We particularly want to see employers being more flexible and responsive to the needs of those who are caring for someone."

An Early Day Motion was tabled by Labour MP Hywel Francis last month to support Carers Week and call for the provision of better support services for carers. The campaign is urging supporters to contact their local MPs, using template emails available on the Carers Week website, and ask them to sign up to the motion. The EDM has so far been signed by 145 MPs.

Carers Week has run for 11 years, but it has grown rapidly over the past four years - from several hundred events to more than 3,000 last year.

Thousands of local events, including coffee mornings and information days, will be held this year in a bid to reach more communities throughout the UK. A spokesman said: "A lot of people are 'hidden carers', which means that they don't see themselves as carers. We want to inform them of their rights and channel them through the services that are available to them."

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