Taking to the airwaves to care for Croydon’s carers

By - Friday 30th January, 2015

Dawn Assefa is a supporter and advocate for carers in Croydon and an experienced carer herself. And – she’s also a DJ

Being cared for at home brings people independence and dignity. Carers give their time and support to those they care for and mostly cope very well – but it’s important to recognise that many carers can be frail, disabled or sick themselves. Caring impacts your life in many different ways: your life revolves around caring for someone else and caring can isolate you. I was a carer for many years before I recognized myself as a carer.

I wasn’t alone. Croydon has about 30,000 carers, 5,000 of whom provide more than 50 hours of care each week. Over 700 carers in Croydon are under the age of 25. These are informal unpaid carers looking after family, friend and neighbors, saving the borough around £541 million a year.

Croydon informal carers have access to many services such as advice information, breaks, employment support, emotional support and befriending, but the majority of carers don’t use them – often simply because they’re not aware help exists.

I know the difficult emotions – and the joys – of caring

So I volunteer at the Carers Information Service, run by the Whitgift Foundation in George Street, one day a week in the ‘carers cafe’. I often see carers coming through the door for the first time relieved and surprised that there is so much help and advice available. The Carers Information Service is a great place to start getting help – so for any carer reading this article, you can get advice and guidance there on all carers needs. You can also find out about some wonderful recreational courses and workshops which are free of charge… ballroom dancing, singing groups, yoga, massage and more.

My wish to help and support my fellow carers arises from my own experiences over many years. I know firsthand that its only in the company of others who really understand that carers can be themselves and express difficult emotions. But I also know the joy of caring: the richness it can bring to your life and the sense of making such a difference to another person’s life. And of course, volunteering to help others means I too receive support and encouragement.

This is a brilliant service – the jewel in Croydon’s crown

In the words of one carer at the centre: “The carers’ support centre is the jewel in Croydon’s crown providing fantastic support to carers. It’s an amazing hub of information and a place to unwind over a cuppa with a friendly face to listen to your worries and concerns. The volunteering has been wonderful, providing comradeship and friendship with an amazing group of people. The courses on offer are varied and professionally run providing training as well as relaxation and fun. It’s simply brilliant. Thank you.”

I have also worked as both a fundraiser and a carers’ advocate, accompanying people with caring responsibilities to meetings with professionals where decisions about care are made to advise them and speak on their behalf if required. It’s a vital role – an advocate has more detailed knowledge of the law or complex benefit issues than a private individual and is also able to be more detached and calm, which can be helpful when discussing difficult topics. I know this at first hand – even though I’m knowledgeable, I’ve used advocacy services myself at times.

I regularly invite experts onto my show to advise about benefits

I’ve also gone further – I’m proud to present a weekly radio show at Croydon RadioThe Carer Show is a fantastic opportunity reach out beyond my personal contacts to a wider audience, telling carers about local and national news and about events that are available to them. I have interesting guests on the show most weeks from local and national organisations that help carers and which are eager to reach those who are still isolated. I also regularly invite Department of Work and Pensions representatives onto the show to explain benefits available.

The Carer Show on Croydon Radio is live on air every Wednesday at 1pm. Anyone can listen, make a song request or dedication.

Dawn Assefa

Dawn Assefa

Dawn has been a carer for family members for over 20 years, and is a passionate campaigner for disabled and carers' rights. She is a mother of 4 children and now also a proud and delighted grandmother of 4. She likes to spend spare time in the countryside foraging for food and remedies, and feels that the parks and woodland in Croydon are wonderful.

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