TWO SUPPORT workers are celebrating a combined 35 years of caring for Sunderland.

Sue Callaghan from Southwick and Dave Willcock from Boldon, have built up 20 and 15 years of service respectively, at Sunderland Carers’ Centre, where their time is spent helping those whose life is spent looking after others. Dave and Sue, who mark their work-anniversaries within weeks of each other, work in the 0-25 team, which is dedicated to helping young carers.

Sue, who is an activity lead, said: “The years have absolutely flown by, and it is hard to believe I have been here for so long.”

“Every day is rewarding. We work with some truly inspirational young people, who make huge compromises to look after their loved one or family member who might need full-time care and support. To give them the emotional and practical support they need is a pleasure and I look forward to being here for many more years to come.”

Dave, carer practitioner, echoed his colleague’s sentiments.

He said: “Like Sue, I feel very lucky to be here and to be making a difference to people who so richly deserve support.

“The Carers’ Centre is a fantastic resource in our city and one I am proud to be part of.  It’s amazing to see the change in the people who pass through the centre – it really can be lifechanging for them.”

Sunderland Carers’ Centre provides support to carers in a range of caring roles aged five years and over from across the city.  The centre has a ‘whole family approach’, with the aim of ensuring no carer feels alone or unsupported.

Graham Burt, chief executive at Sunderland Carers’ Centre, said: “Sue and Dave continue to make a huge contribution to the centre and those who use it, and they deserve recognition for reaching a momentous milestone, having been with us for so many years.

“It would be hard to quantify the impact of their work during their time with us. Often people come to the centre with low aspirations, confidence and self-esteem having made huge compromises throughout their life to look after their unwell or disabled family member. What Sue, Dave and the wider Sunderland Carers’ Centre team do is help them to see their worth and support them in rebuilding their own identity away from being a carer.

“For young Carers in particular, this can be life changing. So this is cause for celebration, not only of the fantastic efforts of Sue and Dave over the years, but of the hundreds – if not thousands – of people whose lives have been touched by these remarkable people.”

Danielle Ray is a young carer who attends the Thompson Road centre for support. She said: “Dave and Sue are the heart and soul of young carers

“Before, I got to experience the fun and laughter of the Carers’ Centre, Dave came to our house to talk to me and my younger sister about what young carers are and what the carers centre could help us with.

“At this time, I didn’t think that I was a young carer, but with encouragement and support from Dave, I took the leap and joined the weekly groups.  This started an amazing journey of accepting myself as a carer and making some life-long friendships, where we experience the highs and lows of caring together.

“Both Sue and Dave have helped me massively since I joined young carers at the age of 18.  Throughout the years, Sue and Dave have supported and encouraged me in entering employment and attending university.”

She added: “I now have the privilege of volunteering alongside Sue and Dave in the carers centre and I can honestly say I don’t know where I would be today if it wasn’t for them entering my life when they did.  Sue and Dave are the dynamic duo that are always there with a listening ear and supportive advice when a young carer may need it.  Young carers would not be the same without them.  A big thank you needs to be sent to Sue and Dave, for the commitment and support they have put in over the years and continue to provide for young carers.”

Sunderland Carers’ Centre works with more than 8,000 carers from across Sunderland.  The organisation is supported by Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Sunderland City Council, but relies on public donations to ensure it can continue its valuable work. To find out more, visit www.sunderlandcarers.co.uk or follow SunderlandCarers on Facebook and Twitter.