Invisible Army - The Voices of Unpaid Carers
Unpaid Carers Needed!
Carer and writer Carina Andrews and photographer Tina Gue would like to spend time with carers and those they care for to take pictures and collect stories. The photographs and short stories will show the challenges and joy carers cope with.
In June 2021 we will present the work during Carers’ Week, at the Vestibules in City Hall Bristol with help from Artspace Lifespace.
“The 2011 census shows that there are 40,138 unpaid carers in Bristol (13.5% of the Bristol population) and 27,639 unpaid carers in South Glos (14.7% of the South Glos population). 5.8 million people provide unpaid care across England and Wales. These statistics are only the unpaid carers that have been identified and registered.” Available at: carerssupportcentre.org.uk
Our dream is to be able to show unpaid carers’ stories. We wish to speak with all carers, of any age, gender, ethnicity, disability: everyone! The role of an unpaid carer does not discriminate.
Please get in touch with either
if you would like to take part.
It would be lovely to hear from you.
We are incredibly grateful that we have been able to spend time with some carers already, but we need more. A lot more! Have a look at some examples of what we have been up to with carers so far.
Every day and night Helle must prepare to endure deafening howls and endless squealing as this is Johanna’s form of communication. Helle would never wish to silence her little girl’s language but her high pitch can take its toll, to the point where Helle now needs to wear ear defenders to protect herself. Helle found that Johanna loves music. She is proud when she watches Johanna move and drum to the rhythm. In the morning when Helle wakes Johanna, she takes a moment to truly connect with her.
Helle: “I look deep into her eyes. This I believe starts the day right: us connected, to be able to achieve the day together.”
Diamond Dotz is something Fortune and Tim can do together. As they sit at the dining room table Fortune knows that Tim is safe; she does not have to worry as he is right by her side. Today is a good day, because Tim can enjoy today (or at least enjoy this moment). They sit at the dining room table and do something as a couple, as equals, away from the daily responsibilities of Fortune acting as Tim’s carer.
Fortune: “We have been married 40 years now. It has always been a caring relationship but in the last few years caring has become something different for us. There is more to it now. However, I love him, so I will always be by his side, regardless.”
Three years ago, a feeding tube saved Cameron’s life and Carla hates to think about where they would be without it. His feeding journey has been a rollercoaster. Cameron - amazingly - has put on 3kg in the past month, after a terrifying year full of health challenges that resulted in him losing a lot of weight. Professionals aren’t able to work with Cameron unless they are trained in PEG feeding; Carla, without any health care qualifications, has to do this every 4 hours. This used to be daunting for her but now it’s just a part of their every day, as it keeps her little boy alive.
Carla: “This has been a challenging year. I feel exhausted from often being told, ‘Mum can do it’. Yes, I am a mum, I love my children and I'm strong, but I am HUMAN too! I need some help!”
Cutting toenails is a job even paid carers will not carry out. With autism and Tourette’s, the aim is to achieve this basic need without any blood or tears. Michèle has been with Declan almost every hour of his 28 years of life; she is now able to sense his every move.
Declan is often found wearing no clothing, just a pad and boxers. Although their connection is strong, Declan is fast: Michèle must be hyper observant - always - otherwise Declan could end up facing many dangers, including not wearing any clothing at all. Cutting nails is a job that can take up to an hour with Declan.
Michèle: “The stress is making me ill again. I don’t have the time to eat or rest, constantly having to be ready for Declan’s next move. Nail cutting has been completed today, so I can take it off my list until next time.”
Carina Andrews was an unidentified carer between the ages of 5 and 16, caring first for her mother who has complex mental health needs and then her father who was diagnosed with Parkinson's. Despite major disruptions to her education and social life, Carina completed a degree in creative art therapies with a top up CAMH.
Tina Gue has 30 years’ experience as a professional photographer. She trained in journalistic photography with a leaning to activism. Her most recent work, This Is Us - a photographic exhibition of women aged 40+ embracing life - was an exhibition of over 140 portraits shown at The Vestibules in celebration of International Women’s Day. 800 visitors attended the exhibition during the opening day.
We want to provide an accurate and detailed account of unpaid care in the South West region from the perspective of those with caring responsibilities. The project will highlight existing statistics: that approximately 6.5 million people in the UK are carers (carersuk.org) and call attention to the fact that the state benefit for carers is the lowest form of benefit in the country.
The project will also incidentally record the impact of COVID-19.
We want the project to acknowledge labour that often is hidden: to make people who feel underrepresented visible in the public domain. From personal experience we know that carers often feel invisible and isolated and this project aims to empower them by acknowledging the work they do. In the future, caring for a family member is a likely outcome for many more people, due to COVID, an ageing population and reduced state support.
This conversation should be happening visibly as it continues to affect more and more people.