FUNDRAISING NEWS: Campaign Watch - Just Breaking

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The chronic shortage of professional carers available to look after disabled people is making more and more family carers sick from stress-related illnesses, according to Leonard Cheshire.

The disability charity will highlight this "hidden and growing problem" in its Christmas appeal mailing, which is being sent this week to people who have previously made donations to Leonard Cheshire.

It hopes to raise funds to support its own respite services, so it can deliver more help to disabled people and give their family carers more breaks.

The leaflet will illustrate the problem with images of real press articles and letters to editors taken from national newspapers.

A letter to the Daily Telegraph refers to Helen Rogan, who jumped to her death with her autistic son from a viaduct in County Durham because she felt unable to cope without sufficient help from social services.

The same letter alludes to a survey by Mencap that revealed that 78 per cent of those caring for people with profound or severe learning disabilities received no support, or less than two hours support, a week.

The covering letter is the personal account of a woman whose marriage has been saved by Leonard Cheshire's respite services since she was paralysed by an accident five years ago. She tells how Leonard Cheshire's services enable her husband to take holiday breaks every so often.

Results of the 2001 National Census found that one in ten people look after an elderly or sick relative, and half of these carers had been treated for stress-related illnesses.

More than 85 per cent of the 21,000 disabled people who are helped by the charity live in their own homes, so they require home care.

It is the first time Leonard Cheshire has launched a campaign to raise money solely for its respite care services. Last year's Christmas appeal promoted its Independent Living campaign, which aimed to let people spend Christmas at home with their families and friends.

Pippa Jones, the charity's head of individual giving, said the Christmas mailing was always its most important. "We hope that using genuine news cuttings to illustrate the problem will have a real impact on our donors at a time when thoughts focus on the family environment."

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