This week, we had the privilege in speaking to Annie Dransfield – the winner of ‘Carer of the Year 2013’ for the Yorkshire Evening Post Best of Health Awards.
Annie has been a carer for 34 years. She cares for her son James who suffers from mental health problems and cerebral palsy, but she also spends several days a week looking after her elderly parents who are managing long-term health conditions. On top of all this, Annie is a champion and active campaigner, fighting the injustices of the many carers she has met over the years, as well as being an active supporter and committee member of the Leeds branch of Carers UK.
What did winning the Carer of the Year mean to you?
“It was a complete surprise – a lovely one but still a surprise! It’s brilliant that carers are being recognised and in particular at this type of event. Aside from the three carers who were shortlisted, everyone else in the room was a professional. The event was brilliant and the host Clare Frisby made everyone in the room feel really special. I was overwhelmed and delighted to receive the award, and although I was taking it home, I was holding it for every single carer in the country!”
How important is it to be recognised for what you do?
“It’s important that the work of carers is acknowledged and the issues they face are dealt with properly and quickly. Most carers do what they do because they want to make sure the person they are looking after is being cared for properly. This means their wellbeing and every aspect of their life is taken care of. This includes everything from cleaning, laundry, shopping, arranging appointments, right to sorting out household repairs like blown light bulbs and leaky showers – these are the things that most people don’t see but sometimes it’s those things that take up so much time.”
What help and advice would you give to anyone who is a carer or about to become one?
“Use the support groups available to you. I used to attend a carers support group and was surprised about some of the stories that were told – this encouraged me to get more involved. I became a Carer Governor for the Mental Health Trust and a member for the Carers Action Group which is a consultation group that looked at improving the lives of carers and service users.
“I have a Care Support Worker and they are brilliant. They’re there when we really need them and have offered me support when I just didn’t know what to do. They helped guide me on the direction needed to go out and get things sorted.”
Leeds City Council is going through a lot of changes at the moment, how have these impacted you and your role as a carer?
“I’ve found that a lot of carers find the new systems very confusing and some can be contradictory where carers are left trying to work out what the benefits will be to them and the service user in ‘real terms’. It would be helpful if someone could explain what all the pros and cons will be. So much time, effort and work is needed to understand all the new policies and how they impact individual service users lives.
“In saying all this, one of the biggest improvements made by the council is that they are asking carers and service users what the changes will mean to them. At the end of the day, carers are the experts and it’s great that they are consulted. I also attend the Carers Strategy Implementation Group and it is brilliant. At every meeting they have carer’s issues on the agenda, and even though the majority of the people are professionals from a wide range of organisations, we aren’t treated any differently. They listen to our opinions and we can have an open and honest discussion on the best way forward.”
Thank you Annie for taking the time to speak to us. We’d like to pass on our congratulations on behalf of Leeds City Council on winning ‘Carer of the Year’. It’s easy to see why you received such a fantastic accolade – you are indeed a true inspiration and a champion for every carer in the country.