CARING for a child, or even an elderly parent, is something most of us will go through in our lives.

We take it for granted that we will have to give or receive care in our lives and that someone will be there to look after us.

But what if your child still needs round-the-clock supervision after they reach 16, or 18, or 21... or 40?

A spouse or other close family member could suffer an accident or dibiltating disease. A parent can suffer Alzheimer’s disease or other form of dementia that amplifies the inevitable effects of ageing.

State help exists in many cases, but rarely provides the level of care most people would feel comfortable relying on.

We rightly feel a sense of duty towards our loved ones, but the pressure to support our nearest and dearest, and the assumption that it is just part of life, can leave some people shouldering the burden alone – and suffering in silence.

Matthew Mint is Southend Council’s strategy and commissioning manager for older people, carers and people with physical and sensory impairments.

He said: “Approximately one in ten adults in Southend have a caring responsibility.

“Becoming a carer can impact significantly on a person’s life – their time, energy, earnings and health and leave them feeling isolated.”

Angela Clarke, who is chairman of Southend Carers Forum, looks after her 17-year-old son, Cameron, who is autistic.

She said: “It’s emotionally very draining. It’s very different to, say, having a child with physical disabilities.”

Nearly a quarter of carers provide more than 50 hours of unpaid care a week.

Southend Council recently undertook a survey about caring for others and found nearly a quarter of respondents were aged 85 and over. These carers support people to remain in their homes and communities, and without them our entire health and care system would collapse.

In fact, it has been estimated that, during 2011, carers saved health and social care services in Southend £296.6million.

However, compared to non-carers, being an unpaid carer is associated with increased rates of psychological distress, including anxiety and depression, reduced social functioning, and increased risk of illness.

Some are even at risk of injury associated with their caring activities.

In Southend, 12.9 per cent of carers, providing over 50 hours of care a week, reported experiencing bad or very bad health.

Andrew Wells, from Rayleigh, provides legal support for carers and those receiving care, as well looking after his mother.

He said: “The amount of time it takes cuts into close family time.

“It’s explaining that to our children that soon their grandmother is not going to know them. It’s not remotely easy.”

However, care and support is available from Southend Council and Southend Carers Forum brings together those facing similar challenges to share ideas and support each other.

Operations manager Dawnette Fessey said: “We provide care and support for carers of all ages and provide a range of services to help them in their role.

“If the carers forum wasn’t here, there would be no one to fight their corner.”

For more information, visit 6/help_and_advice_for_carers or call 0170 215 008 and ask about carers services.

To speak to Southend Carers Forum, call 01702 393933.