A big step forward for helping unpaid carers

A big step forward for helping unpaid carers

Kent-based Stepping Out With Carers (SOWC) was founded by sports journalist Sue Mott to address the lack of rambling groups for carers, who can very often be isolated.

Depending on a network of volunteers who ‘scope out’ inspiring and, crucially, accessible routes, the group – which became a Community Interest Organisation (CIC) in 2020 – organises walks for carers and those they care for.

“Our aim is to provide regular free walks across the UK to carers in beautiful settings. It allows carers and those they care for to meet others in a similar situation, enjoy the respite from day-to-day challenges and build an emotional support network,” explained Sue.

There are an estimated 155,000 unpaid carers in Kent, and 10.5million carers in the UK, and the pandemic has increased the number of carers, by 4.5 million, according to statistics from Carers UK.

The organisation is now encouraging carers and their supporters everywhere in the UK to do a ‘Big Step Out’ walk of any length on Wednesday, June 29.

The ‘centrepiece’ event of the day will be held at Bewl Water, a free ‘walking festival’ where there are four possible walking routes, from the one-mile ‘accessible’ route which is suitable for people who use wheelchairs or have mobility issues, to a nearly 13-mile route.

Sue added: “Since the pandemic most of us can empathise with the sense of isolation that can arise in cut off from regular socialising and activity. In carers, this is a monumental problem and often results in loneliness, anxiety and depression as well as escalate physical health problems.

“The Big Step Out is our annual event to help raise awareness of what we do year-round and what carers do every day.”

Thanks to Sport England funding from the National Lottery, all SOWC walks are free, and include free lunch and drinks, explained a spokeswoman.

However, walkers at Bewl can choose to donate £1 per mile walked.

Volunteers from Tonbridge School and Cranbrook School will marshal the event, and Cranbrook School pupils will walk the longest route.

The ‘The Big Step Out’ is at Bewl Water, starting at 10am on Wednesday June 29. Bewl Water is run by the Elite Leisure Collection, owner of One Media, publisher of the Times.

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