Carers’ Hub Rochdale is dedicated to supporting unpaid carers throughout the Borough of Rochdale. The Participation and Engagement Team within the Carers’ Hub is instrumental in fostering connections with both professionals and unidentified unpaid carers, ensuring effective communication, service promotion, and continuous improvement.

One of the biggest challenges the Carers' Hub faces is reaching out to carers who might not identify themselves as such. For example, family members or friends who look after a loved one because they're family or it's in their heart to be generous, people from minority ethnic backgrounds who see caring as part of family life. Before you can reach out to a hidden carer, engage them and help them see their situation, you must first identify them.

The Participation and Engagement Team employ a multi-faceted approach, combining engagement with professionals who may support carers in another capacity, marketing and comms that describe the caring role rather than ask, "Are you a carer?", support programmes targeted at minority and ethnic groups and reaching out into the community, talking to people on the ground.

In 2022-23, the Carers' Hub reached out to more than 280 professionals who may be in touch with hidden carers through their roles. GPs, Social Workers, Social Prescribing Teams, and faith and community groups received information on the Carers' Hub – who they support, how to identify an unpaid carer and how to refer them. One of the biggest areas of growth is through employers who may be employing a carer and haven't yet connected the days off at short notice, tiredness and fatigue with the fact that they might be caring for someone outside of work. The Participation and Engagement Team provide awareness training to 'Carer Champions' within an organisation, helping them see the signs and reach out sensitively and compassionately.

The team's effectiveness is further enhanced through co-production: listening to carers and using their feedback to develop the service. We support over 20,000 carers across the Northwest; that's a lot of experience, and we use that knowledge to steer future events and develop a language that connects with carers who don't yet identify themselves as a carer.

The Participation and Engagement Team runs stalls at events, holds drop-ins at GP practices and has a regular presence in hospitals and health centres, talking to family members/friends who are visiting patients, hospital staff and volunteer befrienders. Our teams are made up of local people, many carers themselves, who understand local needs. We speak the languages of our communities, provide information in languages commonly spoken in our areas and use representative imagery to help individuals self-identify.

Meeting people face-to-face has the added advantage of building trust through listening, empathy and compassion. Caring can be incredibly stressful for the carer; their own lives are put on hold for the benefit of others; it can be lonely, tiring and challenging. Quite often, a friendly ear is the gateway to more structured support. We know from our experience during the pandemic that many carers didn’t engage as well with an exclusively online service; referrals for new carers dropped, and rose again when we were back engaging people in person.

“Being a carer can feel so lonely but then I come here and see all your smiles, I know I am amongst friends” Carer