Cooking up a break for Merton's Carers Carers Support Merton and Thomas Franks Foundation say thank you to Merton’s unpaid Carers An attempt to verify the source of a message to our phoneline led Carers Support Merton’s CEO Tracy Weight to Frank Bothwell founder of Thomas Franks Catering. While Frank was in the dark about the original call that sparked their conversation, it turned out he did know a lot about the incredible job unpaid carers do, thanks to his mother’s volunteering with Carers in Leeds. “Carers are the forgotten heroes of this pandemic.” – Frank Bothwell So when Tracy explained how Merton’s carers had been working tirelessly without a break since the start of the pandemic caring for their loved ones often without the help of their regular support networks and were now running on empty, Frank wasted no time in offering practical support via The Thomas Franks Foundation and Feeding Communities. He proposed a scheme to give carers something to look forward to, a break from cooking for a weekend. For CSM this is a wonderful opportunity to take a little bit of pressure off Carers for a few days and acknowledge the phenomenal job they have been doing for the past year. Carers have provided an incredible £135 billion of care during the pandemic. Research published by Carers UK at the end of 2020 into Carers’ experiences nationwide found that four in five unpaid carers (81%) are currently providing more care than before the March lockdown. In addition, more than three quarters (78%) of carers reported that the needs of the person they care for have increased and most carers (64%) have not been able to take any breaks at all in the last six months. Unsurprisingly, more than half (58%) of carers have seen their physical health impacted by caring through the pandemic, while 64% said their mental health has worsened. Weekend Off Cooking This weekend (February 19th) Thomas Franks chefs and Feeding Communities are cooking over 500 restaurant-style meals in a Covid-secure environment from a specially devised menu for Merton’s Carers and their families to enjoy over two days. The meals are being distributed by community volunteers. Frank Bothwell is keen to highlight the vital work that Carers do and for them to receive the recognition they deserve, “as the fourth emergency service.” "This a way for all of us at CSM to acknowledge that Merton’s Carers have had an incredibly tough year shielding loved ones often at the expense of their own mental and physical health. Carers rarely get time off, so we’re really pleased to be able to give something back.” - Tracy Weight The Weekend Off Cooking has been made possible by Northwood College GPDST who have given Feeding Communities the use of their kitchen, as well as by the support of The Thomas Franks Foundation and Carers Support Merton.