Carers in Bedford are celebrating with volunteers across the county during a week-long campaign to recognise their contribution to the community.
Carers Week is being celebrated from Monday, June 6 until Sunday, June 12, an annual event which raises awareness of caring and the challenges they face.
Among celebrations were those at the flagship Carers Café service at the Bedford Café, held at the Goldington Centre, which has run for seven years.
Carers are co-ordinating 23 events across Bedford and Central Bedfordshire, from cream teas at carers groups, a sponsored half term walk for young carers, to the formal opening of the Carers Lounge at the Luton and Dunstable Hospital.
Among those marking the week, organised by Carers UK, is Cheryl Dean who cares for her father who has Parkinson’s Disease. She discovered Carers in Bedfordshire through her parents and she and her family regularly visit the cafes.
Cheryl said: “The cafes are great because they give carers the escapism to be with other people who can empathise with their daily lives as carers. At the same time, the people they care for can be with them in a safe, welcoming environment.”
Cheryl brought cake and other refreshments from her employer, Sainsbury’s, to celebrate the anniversary.
The cafes were the brainchild of Carers in Bedfordshire’s founder, Yvonne Clark, who devised the format where the person with care needs could attend too so along with their carer could access much-appreciated haircuts, massages and other therapies to promote their wellbeing.
Carers in Bedfordshire now runs carers cafes monthly in Biggleswade, Houghton Regis, Eaton Bray, Leighton Buzzard and most recently Flitwick, where more than 300 carers regularly attend with the person they care for.
Bill Simpkins, 75, cares for his wife who has mental health problems. Bill has been going to the carers café in Bedford since it first opened and is now one of the regulars.
He said: “When I first went along I didn’t know anyone but as time has gone on I have got to know people. We all look out for each other and the people we care for but at the same time love seeing new people come in and being able to help them. The numbers of people who come along depends very much on the time of year and even the weather. The cafes are friendly, informative, good for my wellbeing and very convenient because I can bring my wife with me and not have to worry about her.”
Bill, one of more than 100 volunteers for Carers in Bedfordshire, co-ordinates the Bedford Monday morning group and calls carers on behalf of the charity.
Anyone wishing to find out more about the services Carers in Bedfordshire offer can contact the charity on 0300 111 1919 or via their website www.carersinbeds.org.uk