TRAFFORD Council is hoping to improve working conditions for its staff who have unpaid caring responsibilities.

The aim is that a new scheme will help carers to be more open about the struggles they face balancing caring and work responsbilities so they can get the right support from the council, which could in turn reduce staff sickness and absence levels for the authority.

A council report about the issue said: “It remains that unpaid carers often struggle to meet the demands of their caring and work responsibilities and as a result, many find it impossible to work and as a result, will suffer financial hardship and the mental health issues associated with social isolation and money or housing worries.

“Furthermore Trafford Council may lose several work days each year due to absence as a result of emergency leave requirements resulting from caring responsibilities or sickness absence as a result of poor health resulting from the pressure to meet work/caring responsibilities.

“Some of this will be hidden because employees will fear that their employment may be affected if they are honest about their situation.”

To prove its commitment to improving things for its staff who care for loved ones, the authority now wants to achieve the Carers UK Carer Confident Quality standard.

The three-levelled accreditation scheme is designed to demonstrate an employer’s focus on improving the working conditions for its staff who are informal carers and aims 'to build a positive and inclusive workplace for staff who are, or will become, carers'.

The programme involves employers providing support packages for eligible staff, and the council needs to prove it has created an environment where carers are ‘recognised, respected and supported’ to be eligible.

The spin-off benefits for the council of reaching the standard include attraction and retention of staff, raising awareness of the responsibilities unpaid carers face, improving conditions for workers and receiving additional resources through Carers UK.

Having met with Carers UK, the report added that Trafford Council is confident it can prove it has done enough to achieve the level one standard of the programme – which shows the authority is ‘active in addressing carer support’.

The aim would then be to work towards a level two accreditation, proving the council is ‘accomplished in providing carer support’.