“I wish you all a merry Christmas, but for thousands of carers Christmas may not be such a happy occasion.

Often at this time of year friends, family and workers in the care industry have their own well deserved break and enjoy the festive season. Although I am sure family carers do not begrudge this, it does and can mean more is asked of them in what can often be an already difficult situation.

There may be extra financial strain as they buy presents for family and friends and try to keep warm if the weather deteriorates. We know that 49 per cent of unpaid family carers struggle financially, that one in five give up their jobs to care. Clubs and day centres are shut and transport links reduced over Christmas and the new year, often meaning it can be two or three weeks before the person they care for is able to access these vital services that are essential in helping them in their caring role. Recent figures show that 83 per cent of unpaid family carers suffer from poor mental and physical health as a direct result of their caring role.

It is important to remember the role of distance carers, those who. live away from the person in their family that they love and care for, a growing phenomenon as families become more mobile and may not be able to visit due to reduce public transport or other restraints. As a result, the person they care for may face a lonely Christmas. It is a time for reflection too and memories may be both happy and sad as family and friends remember Christmas's past.

Although many carers will be with their families at this time and will enjoy the festive season, it is important to remember that this is not the case for everyone. We should be aware that family carers face these difficulties, as well as the rewards that caring can bring throughout the whole year; caring is constant - not just at Christmas.

I started this message with the words "Happy Christmas " and I do want to wish you all a merry Christmas and happy new year. It is a time to say thank you to all the staff of Carers Trust in Cambridgeshire for all their hard work and support given to the organisation and to carers who live in these areas. Also to the Board of Trustees for their help, support and guidance, but mostly to the thousands of family carers and friends who may be young or old who support and care for someone."

Linda Collumbell

Chairman of Carers Trust Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Peterborough.