AN innovative project in Liverpool which involves hotels and restaurants providing free hospitality to unpaid carers is attracting close attention from other areas of the country.
The Mytime initiative was started after the 2011 Census revealed that Liverpool had more than 50,000 unpaid carers – but only 4,500 were actually registered. Liverpool Carers Centre, run by the Local Solutions charity in Merseyside and North Wales, wanted to know why so many were not registered with the council.
“When we asked about how the health and well-being of carers could be improved the main feedback we got was what they wanted most was a break, even just for a couple of hours.”
This prompted Hazel Brown, head of the Carers Centre, to send out some letters to local hotels asking if they could help. She received a reply from a manager at the Malmaison in Liverpool who had been a carer herself and understood the problem and offered a free overnight stay at the hotel to a carer.
“That wonderful gesture started the ball rolling and very soon the Crowne Plaza signed-up and then other hotels came on board offering bed-and-breakfast accommodation to carers on Sunday nights usually,” says Mo.
“Last summer, when we had 16 participating hotels, we successfully applied for Big Lottery Funding which was a fantastic boost and this enabled me to become employed by Mytime as project co-ordinator in December. Since then, the number has reach 24 and it’s continuing to grow.”
Hotels include some of Liverpool’s best-known properties such as the Hard Days Night, Hotel Indigo, Hope Street Hotel, The Titanic Hotel, the Pullman and Signature Living’s Shankly Hotel, 30 James Street and The Arthouse.
Support has also spread beyond the city to Jurys Inn Manchester, Mecure Chester Abbots Well and Leasowe Castle in Wirral.
Other contributors include Liverpool John Moores University which provided afternoon tea for 50 carer, local independent restaurant Maray which offers a complimentary brunch, and New World Trading Company is offering a meal for carers once a month at each of their sites.
“The hoteliers have been phenomenally supportive,” adds Mo. “It’s very humbling. They often go further than just the basic stay with some carers getting upgrades and other benefits.
“The carers are not treated differently from any other guests – sometimes more like VIPs!
“We are looking to expand as demand currently far exceeds supply. Mytime would like to provide carers with a whole range of different opportunities including spa breaks, golf, fishing and even holidays- the list is endless.
“There are significant benefits in becoming involved with the project such as being able to give something back to the local community and a ‘feel good’ factor about contributing to a local cause as well as positive publicity on our website and social media.
“Not only that, but Mytime has also attracted interest from other local authority areas and we would be extremely proud if the project achieves more widespread success so that the huge numbers of unpaid carers across the UK are given some reward for the services they so unselfishly provide to loved ones.”