BEING a full-time, voluntary, unpaid carer, since November 2018, for my wife, who has dementia, I would like to ask a question of the Scottish Government, especially Jeane Freeman, the health secretary.

Why are unpaid carers not given more recognition for the fantastic service they perform from day to day (many doing it every single day of the year), looking after their loved ones, vulnerable people within each community?

There are between 700,000 and 800,000 unpaid carers in Scotland, of whom 29,000 are under 18. There are eight million in the UK. They save the NHS £15 billion.

Just because they choose to do what they do out of love for their loved ones does not mean that they can be taken for granted. Should they choose to opt out of unpaid caring, for whatever reasons (possibly due to the deterioration of their own health, especially in light of the current Covid-19 situation), the NHS would probably feel that it had been hit by a hurricane.

The unpaid carers in Scotland are included in and covered by the Scottish Carers Act 2016, and therefore should be counted as being an important, integral part of the care of the vulnerable within society.

They should also be included amongst the key workers, so giving them access to the testing and the proper P.P.E. that is currently being made available to carers.

It should also be remembered that unpaid carers do not go to work, such is the round-the-clock nature of their caring duties.

They are not making any crazy demands; all they are asking is to be recognised as being a credit to their loved ones, and recognised for all of the excellent work they do in the confines of their own homes, along with the fact that they are saving the health service an absolute fortune.

On behalf of all unpaid carers I ask the Scottish government to stop procrastinating and start to recognise unpaid carers by actions instead of patronising phrases, such as, “We really appreciate all that you are doing within the care sector”.

Please place the unpaid carer on an equal footing with all other carers. They might be small in some ways but they are huge in others.

A bicycle will no longer be a bicycle if you take away one wheel.

We unpaid carers are that missing wheel which is integral to the smooth and proper running of the care sector.

To put matters another way, we are also the mortar within the wall of the care sector, in that we are always there as a bonding agent, and so necessary for the stability of the care sector “wall” – but we are very seldom noticed in the importance of our role.

Peter Charleton,