This week is Carers Week, a UK-wide annual awareness campaign aimed at improving the lives of carers and the people they care for. With 6.5 million carers in the UK right now it is important that we recognise their contribution to our society and that they have a serious platform to have their voices heard. The figures are staggering – every day at least 6,000 people become carers, and with an aging population and an increase in long-term illnesses, this number is only going to grow. In fact Carers Week have predicted that three in five of us will be a carer at some point in our lives. So it is apt that that the theme for this year’s awareness week is Prepared to Care? It aims to highlight how the carer population is coping, how the government is supporting the growing number of carers, and if the wider population is prepared for future caring.
As a business, O2 has always been about bringing fresh thinking and new possibilities via mobile technology to the UK market. And we’re doing this for the carer communities through our Help at Hand service. We all use our mobiles these days to work, socialised, shop, play games and be entertained, so it seems like a natural evolution to use mobile as a tool for caring. Help at Hand is essentially a mobile telecare service, including GPS tracking, fall detectors, ‘safe zones’ and a button that links to a 24/7 support centre – and is aimed to provide peace-of-mind for carers and support the elderly and ill in being more independent.
Of course the best endorsement for any product or service is from people who have actually used it, and I personally have been blown away by some of the personal stories I’ve been privileged to hear. One of these stories is told here by Denise and her family. After being diagnosed with angina, Denise was worried about going out on her own in case of an attack and came to rely heavily on her husband and daughter for support. The whole family became trapped by the illness. Not only was Denise not able to continue to do the things she loved doing, her husband worried about her when he had to travel for work, and her daughter felt scared to leave her on her own. I’ll leave you to watch their moving story, but what it really brings home to me is the central role this kind of mobile technology can play in supporting carers now and in the future.
To celebrate carers and Carers Week, we’re also is running a competition in partnership with the Carers Trust to win one of five pairs of tickets to an O2 Academy gig. If you’re a carer, being cared for, or know someone who is a carer, tell us what is so brilliant about them via Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #o2carer.