By Patrick McCarthy

Director, Enterprise Architecture (Foundation Services) in Digital Technology Services

Along with my wife, Angela, I’m a carer for Martha, our profoundly disabled daughter who is now aged 14. I’ve been with Centrica for 16 years, so was already working for the company when Martha was born.

Angela works part time as a primary school music teacher and freelance musician, so along with our work commitments we share caring duties for Martha. It’s sometimes quite challenging to fit in all the support Martha needs. We also have a younger daughter, Orla who needs time and attention, so it’s full on. You certainly don’t get to sit down, have a cup of tea and read the paper!

One of the biggest challenges is dealing with Martha’s medical needs as she has 10 consultants she must regularly see. That’s a lot of appointments to attend and she has also had major surgery. Centrica have been supportive with a great carers leave policy. Being able to take up to ten days carers leave in a rolling twelve-month period has been a massive help when I’ve needed it.

It’s just as well otherwise I’d spend all my leave on hospital appointments! Of course, I’m lucky, I have a job that enables me to be flexible. As a co-chair of our Carers network, I, along with the rest of the network, have been working hard this year to ensure that line managers are aware of Centrica’s carers policy and that it’s used consistently across all areas of our business.

There are also unexpected demands on our time. We all know council budgets are tight, but we constantly must fight to get Martha’s needs accepted and supported effectively. We’ve had to battle all the way to the High Court to get her special needs provisioned at secondary school and our local authority are still fighting to take this support away as a cost saving exercise. This ongoing battle is physically and emotionally wearing, but it’s reassuring to know that I can always talk to people in the Carers Network who have been through similar things and can provide both practical advice and emotional support.

I don’t want to paint too bleak a picture of life though. Like any parents we love our daughter and have many fantastic moments with her. Martha loves looking at picture books and listening to music. She’s a joy to have in our lives, but of course nobody ever signs up to be a carer. Whether you’re looking after a child, a parent, or someone else, you don’t go looking for the job!

That’s why our Centrica Carers network and our partnership with Carers UK, is so important to carers across the business.

We have over 1400 members in the network and that’s not to say we wouldn’t welcome more, as we estimate the number of carers to be at least double this number in a UK employee base the size of Centrica’s.

This Carers Week we’ll be running internal events to advise colleagues on the support they can get from Centrica and we’ll be asking them to add their voice to the Carers UK campaign to make sure that carers are visible and valued. We will also put them in touch with colleagues who’ve had similar experiences so they can share their own stories as someone to talk too is so important.

For more information on our partnership with Carers UK, visit our dedicated page.