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Councils extend pilot to give more unpaid carers access to leisure centres

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We and Mid Devon District Council are extending a pilot scheme to give more unpaid carers – people who voluntarily provide care to a loved one or friend – free access to three leisure centres in Mid Devon.

It’s in response to us hearing that the rising costs-of-living is making unpaid carers prioritise their spending, and that they’re choosing not to spend on exercise or activities away from their caring roles.

That’s concerning because thousands of people in Devon rely on a family member or friend to help care for them, and those people also rely on their carer being well enough themselves to provide care.

Exercise and time away from caring is good for carers’ physical and mental health and wellbeing.

So we and Mid Devon District Council launched a scheme earlier this month to encourage unpaid carers to use their leisure centres to stay active, and to have time away from their caring role.

Initially it was open to unpaid adult carers of adults, but now we’ve extended the pilot to make it available to parent carers (parents who are caring for their child or young person, under 18, who has additional needs) and to young carers (unpaid carers under the age of 18) and as well.

The participating leisure centres are:

Carers will need to show identification that they are an unpaid carer at the participating leisure centres.

For adult carers of adults, that would be their ‘Carers Passport’, which is freely available from Devon Carers; for young carers,  Devon Young Carers will also issue a ‘Young carers ID card’ free of charge, ; and for parent carers, that would be their ‘Max Card’, which is available from Devon County Council, or otherwise evidence that they are in receipt of Carers’ Allowance or Disability Living Allowance.

Cllr James McInnes, our Cabinet Member with responsibility for adults, said

“The pilot has got off to a flying start, with a lot of people contacting Devon Carers to enquire about their Carers Passport identification.

“We’re now delighted to open this pilot up to even more unpaid carers, to include young carers and parent carers as well.”

Councillor Dennis Knowles, Mid Devon District Council’s Cabinet Member for Community Well Being, said:

“We know there are many people in our district who will be facing financial hardship , yet will be doing their upmost to support those they care for. This is our way to support them and ensure they have access to high quality leisure facilities, enabling them to exercise freely and boost their own physical and mental wellbeing.”

The pilot will run until the end of the year.

Details about the facilities available at the leisure centres are available on the Mid Devon Leisure Centre website.

Unpaid carers can access all activities*, except swimming lessons, but classes and courts are advised to be booked in advance. 

*Young carers over the age of 8 years can have access to swimming pools and young carers aged 16 and over can have the opportunity to access gyms, fitness studios and group exercise classes.

For information, advice and support, and, if you an unpaid adult carer of an adult, to apply for your ‘Carers Passport’ from Devon Carers please visit the Devon Carers website, email or contact the Devon Carers Helpline on 03456 434 435. The Helpline is available Monday to Fridays from 8:00am to 6:00pm (except bank holidays) and on Saturday from 9:00am to 1:00pm

For any advice and information for young carers, please contact Devon Young Carers  through the Young Carers | Westbank website , email or call  03456 434 435