A CARERS charity, run by Exminster-based Westbank community health and care is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

The free service Devon Carers is marking the quarter century of supporting unpaid carers across Devon and is planning several events as part of its landmark anniversary.

The charity provides a wide range of support services to those who look after family members or friends because they are ill, frail, or have a disability, mental health or substance misuse problem.

Westbank’s Devon Carers has grown to be one of the largest charitable organisations in the UK helping adult and young carers.

About 28,000 adults across the county, excluding Plymouth and Torbay, are currently registered with Devon Carers, and around 2,500 under eighteen-year-olds are registered with Devon Young Carers.

What started as a small group supporting carers locally in Exminster, has expanded to cover Devon from coast to coast.

The service continues to grow with thousands of carers joining each year, on average 200 to 300 a month.

Andy Hood, Head of Devon Carers said: ‘There’s been a big increase over the last 25 years in terms of the support services we provide to carers, but we have big ambitions to reach even more adults and young people who help friends and family to cope with a range of health and mobility issues.

‘Another of our goals is to reach people earlier in their caring journey. If we can get to them with a combination of advice and support when they first receive the diagnosis for the person they care for, generally it prevents them from reaching a crisis point. Early intervention makes an enormous difference to most people.

‘We have streamlined some of our processes and the way we handle new referrals and assessment requests to support even more carers and respond to them more quickly.

‘These changes have reduced waiting times for assessments from a few weeks to a few days.’

The charity says its carers are people who do something for a friend or family members on a regular or daily basis for a friend or family member that enables them to cope such as shopping, checking in with them regularly and providing emotional support.

The last Census estimated that there are 74,000 carers in Devon, but the real figure is believed to be closer to 130,000 to 140,000.

It is believed some carers responded incorrectly, there is much confusion about the term ‘Carer’ and whom it includes.

Also, it can take a long time for people to realise they are a carer and longer still to accept that label.