THERE are 34,200 self-defined carers in the county and the council has agreed a strategy which aims to help them.

Herefordshire Council's cabinet approved the latest carers strategy which aims to identify carers and provide clear ways to help and support them.

The Herefordshire Health and Wellbeing survey 2011 estimated that there were 34,200 carers in Herefordshire, which is 16.5 percent of the county's population.

But Cllr Terry James said: "The figures we have been given- 16.5 percent or 34,200 people self-defined as carers. I don't think it helps us in supporting those people who are, I would say, real carers.

"If those figures are true, half the population would either be caring for someone or being cared for. I don't actually believe that. We can all say someone cares for someone in some respect."

But council officer Ewen Archibald said there are various definitions of carers and it is important to identify the most vulnerable in our society.

The care strategy focuses on universal services and making those services accessible to carers.

Cllr Jonathan Lester, cabinet member for young people and children's wellbeing, said there is no doubt that the situation has to be improved for carers so they can look after their own wellbeing as well as those they care for.

He said the council needs to use their resources more efficiently and raise greater awareness.

He said: "Because of the high numbers the focus has to be on strategic change rather than specialised services."

Current contracted support services for carers will end in March 2018, so that newly configured services must be commissioned to begin in April 2018; a process which will start shortly.

The council has committed to involving carers directly in the design of new services. These new services should reflect the priorities in the strategy.

Cllr Sebastian Bowen said: "Identifying young carers in particular is important. Very often they don't realise they are carers as such and struggle on. It is very important that all the carers and particularly young carers are known and flagged up by GPs."