STEPPING into the shoes of the tens of thousands of carers looking after a friend or relative is literally what Swindon Carers Centre is asking of townspeople to mark National Carers Week.

As part of the campaign, which launched today and aims to cast the spotlight on the dedication and selflessness of the 19,500 unpaid carers in Swindon, the charity will stage Walk a Mile in My Shoes on Saturday.

As the title suggests, participants are invited to walk a mile in a pair of shoes borrowed from a carer to raise awareness of the daily challenges faced by those committed to caring for loved ones and collect funds towards welcome breaks and regular support.

“There are 19,500 carers in Swindon,” said Susanna Jones, of Swindon Carers Centre. “For us, Walk a Mile in My Shoes is a fundraising event as well as a way of raising awareness.

“It’s vitally important to highlight the work that unpaid carers do and ensure we support people of all ages. We support carers as young as five.

“We have young carers that maybe support a sibling or parents and older carers in their 90s.

“Being a carer can be very isolating and we always look for funding for specific activities for them. Young carers may miss school or hand in their homework late, for example.

“It can be very exhausting and it is a massive responsibility.”

The charity supports 460 young carers. In the past year alone, 130 new young carers were added to its database.

It offers one-on-one supervision with a support worker and gives carers the opportunity to take a break or go on holiday.

The campaign also aims to reach out to the many people in Swindon who receive no practical help or emotional support from charities like the Swindon Carers Centre.

“Many people are hidden carers but are performing a caring role for someone 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” added Susanna.

“Many don’t recognise what they do as being a carer. It could mean looking after someone with dementia or could be doing the washing or ironing for someone who can’t do it themselves.

“Getting into a caring role can be gradual.”

Walkers will set off from the Wyvern Theatre at 10.30am.

Among them will be Swindon Council chief executive Gavin Jones and Swindon South MP Robert Buckland.

To register, call Sandi on 01793 531133. Participants can take part wearing their own shoes.