The Unsung Heroes campaign – Something positive to come from the pandemic
By: Philippa Harrington, On: 22 February 2021
There’s no doubt about it: 2020 was one of the worst years in recent times, and the coronavirus pandemic has hung over the last few months like a dark cloud. But there were some real positives to come out of the year, such as the “Clap for Carers” movement designed to encourage Brits out on the doorsteps on Thursday evenings to show their support for those on the frontline.
And another heart-warming example of this was the arrival of the Unsung Heroes Campaign, an awareness-raising scheme aimed at bringing the stories of coronavirus carers to life. This campaign is no longer live, but its legacy lives on even as we proceed into 2021. Our blog will share some more information about this important campaign and will look more closely at what the campaign is up to now.
Roots of the campaign
This important campaign was set up in the West Midlands back in May 2020 just a few months into the pandemic. As is so often the case with third sector schemes like this, there’s a hardworking charity behind the campaign: Forward Carers, which ran the campaign, in a carer support service. The Unsung Heroes campaign aimed to boost public knowledge and awareness of the importance of family carers across England’s second city, Birmingham. It compiled and featured stories from a variety of carers in the area and took steps to distribute these stories across the region and the wider country.
The campaign took an upbeat approach and promoted the role of such carers in a positive manner. It was supported financially by The Big Lottery Fund, and received positive press attention. But it also had a serious side: it employed two researchers from the Social Effectiveness Research Centre at Birmingham’s Centre for Voluntary Action, who studied the effects of the campaign on awareness levels.
What did the campaign find?
The researchers, Dr Anna Hraboweckyj and Dr Leon Quinn, analysed swathes of data from across the high profile campaign and discovered some heartening results. Three-quarters of carers reported that the Unsung Heroes campaign had had a direct positive effect on their own level of awareness around how much support was available. And almost two-thirds of carers remarked that awareness levels of what carers do among the general public, and especially organisations, had gone up thanks to the campaign.
The Unsung Heroes campaign was brought to a close just a month after it started in June of last year, and it’s now no longer possible to participate in the original campaign. But its legacy lives on in a number of ways. After the campaign ended, Forward Carers launched “Carer Friendly Brum” – a campaign designed to build on the success of the original and promote the stories of carers in the area.
The new campaign specifically aims to help institutions get more knowledgeable about what carers do. The breadth of organisations it intends to target is large and varies from health care trusts responsible for providing NHS services to local businesses. It also has a strong pragmatic element, too, and is designed to empower these organisations to do something specific and tangible to improve the life of a carer they come across.
And with England now in a third lockdown, it’s worth remembering that the aims and values of the campaign can still be spread on a community level. Carers are encouraged to share their stories where they can, and they can take to social media to do so by using the hashtag #UnsungHeroes. The idea here is that other carers can take solace in the fact that the challenges they might be facing are shared with others rather than individualised, and that support networks exist.
As well as being a specific campaign led by Forward Carers, the idea of celebrating carers as “Unsung Heroes” was taken up by other organisations as well in a spirit of sharing and celebration. A documentary on Channel 4 entitled “Britain’s Unsung Heroes” was broadcast in May, and although this looked at a wider range of “people helping people” than just carers, it received positive attention. Banking giant TSB, for example, proudly sponsored the programme. Politicians also got involved. Rob Roberts, the Member of Parliament for Delyn in North Wales, also ran an “Unsung Heroes” campaign of his own to thank carers and others who had “gone over and above” in the local area he represents.
For information on what to consider when employing a carer, as well as links to useful resources, visit our help page for those employing carers.