The Carers Café was filled with sandwiches, scones and cupcakes as carers, staff and volunteers gathered for a tea party to celebrate the Carers Support Centre’s first birthday on Tuesday 23 September.

The Centre on George Street, the first high street drop-in centre of its kind for carers in the UK, has had more than 16,000 enquiries since opening. More than 500 carers have attended free training sessions with over 700 new carers now on the borough’s carers register.

Information and advice is available at the Centre for carers on any aspect of their caring role by phone, dropping in or through a casework service which advises carers of their rights, entitlements and how to access services for themselves and the person they care for.

Carers are not just encouraged to drop into get advice on issues affecting them, but also to meet other carers, have fun and take part in many of the social activities on offer such as a Carers Cafe, ballroom dancing and even a laughter workshop. Also available every week are free NHS health checks to people aged 40-74, as well as free flu jabs.

One visitor commented: “A great day for the Carers’ Support Centre on its birthday celebration. It is well organised and I met many different people sharing their feelings together as carers. A great welcome by staff, nice tea, coffee and plenty of sandwiches to eat. The atmosphere was very welcoming.”

Another carer added: “The Carers’ Support Centre is the jewel in Croydon’s town providing fantastic support to carers. It’s an amazing hub of information and a place to unwind over a cuppa with a friendly face to listen to your worries and concerns. The volunteering has been wonderful providing comradery and friendship with an amazing group of people. The courses on offer are varied and professionally run providing training as well as relaxation and fun. It’s simply brilliant. Thank you.”

Since January, a 20 strong volunteer team (pictured) has supported the centre by providing over 750 hours of volunteering through varied roles including: a Mailout Team; Publications Delivery Driver; Carers Café Welcomer and IT Buddy and Support.

Twelve voluntary carer organisations rent offices in the upper floors of the building enabling organisations to work much more closely to offer a better service to carers. The Centre is funded by The Whitgift Foundation and Croydon Council and run by the Foundation’s Carers’ Information Service (CIS), moving from their offices in Church Street to run the new facility.