12 June 2017 12:31

Balancing a career with being a carer for a sick or disabled relative can be tough, but to mark Carers Week (June 12-16), Lancaster University is working to give its staff of more than 3,000 access to the support they need.

Lancaster University has launched new guidance on supporting staff with caring responsibilities.  The aim is to provide pro-active and consistent support to staff across the University and managers play a key role in this.

Tracy Walters, Assistant Director HR (Strategy) at Lancaster University said: “The University recognises the increased demands on working carers and aims to provide a supportive environment and approach to their needs.  We strive to create a fair and open environment where all staff can flourish. By enabling better management of work-life balance, staff with caring responsibilities should feel more supported to combine work and managing their career with their caring commitments.”

Liz Fawcett, Senior Library Assistant in the Special Collections and Content Team, has worked at Lancaster University for 21 years. She has a 12-year-old son David, who has Downs Syndrome and a rare form of epilepsy as well as another son, Kyle, who is ten years old.  

David is non-verbal, uses eye-gaze technology to communicate and needs a high level of care – every milestone he reaches is a cause for huge celebration -  but Liz has been able to continue in a job she enjoys thanks to a flexible approach and supportive colleagues.

Liz said: “I work part-time during school hours to fit round my caring role. This works very well as work is a chance to talk with grown-ups and concentrate on other things other than what is going on at home and quite therapeutic for me in this way. I work with a good team of people who are very supportive and understand what I deal with on a daily basis.

“My son is non-verbal but very easy going.  If in a room, so quiet you might not realise he’s there. He loves listening to music, vibrating toys, lights, and food is his main motivator. He doesn’t like being tickled and will show this by pushing your hand away. Like everyone, he has his likes and dislikes. Everyone that meets him warms to him as he’s so easy going and laid back.

“Lots of things go through your head once you get a diagnosis of Down’s Syndrome, or something similar, but thinking about the future of what your child will do, which can seem scary, is like asking a typical new born baby’s mum what grades their child is going to get in A-level.  If anyone has concerns then I feel information is the key and any decisions should be fed by information. 

“Some people may see the care David needs and think he is hard work. Far from this as he is so loving, a joy to be with and a pleasure to do things for.”