A MOTHER who gave up her high-powered job to care for her deaf and blind son is calling on employers to support people who act as carers.
Former textiles manager Carol Thomas, 45, had to quit her job in 1999 when son James was born with complex special needs.
James, now five, was born profoundly deaf and has impaired vision, which affects his mobility.
Now Carol is making it her mission to encourage employers to make life easier for people who have to become carers.
She said: "I want to get the message across to all local employers that there is a skilled and committed workforce out there looking for opportunities.
"I gave up work in 1999 to care for my baby.
"I didn't know then that it would take me more than five years to be able to contemplate re-entering the workplace and that it would not be as straightforward as I had anticipated."
Carol, of Longwood, is spearheading a new project to encourage employers to become more carer- friendly.
The Ace Plus scheme - Action for Carers and Employment - aims to set up a Carers' Charter, to acknowledge the efforts of employers and to share good practice in making life easier for carers.
The scheme is being run by Kirklees Council Social Services and paid for by the European Union's Social Fund.
Clr Dennis Hullock, the council's Cabinet member for health and social services, said: "I fully support the Carers' Charter.
"It's important that we encourage employers to realise employees who are also carers can make a valuable contribution in the workplace.
"I know many carers are keen to get back to work and have a lot of skills and experience to offer.
"However, they do need flexibility and recognition of their particular needs and problems."
There are 40,000 carers in Kirklees, one in 10 of the population.
It is also estimated that one in seven people in work have a caring role.
Carol urged businesses interested in joining the charter to get in touch.
She said: "Please contact me. It costs nothing to talk.
"You may already offer lots of flexible working approaches and include carers in your employment policies, or you may have to take another look and make some changes.
"There is a huge pool of skilled personnel which - with a bit of creative thinking - you could be tapping into."
* To find out more, contact Kirklees Social Services Carers' Gateway, 6-8 St Peter's Street, Huddersfield HD1 1DH, or ring 01484 226045.
* Assists with returning to training and/or work.
* Helps with building confidence and self-esteem.
* Gives advice on benefits, training, volunteering and career options.
* Runs short courses on confid- ence building, assertiveness, stress management, job seeking, benefits and computers.
* Gives practical help with job applications and interviews.
* Helps find funding for training courses and helps with work placements or work experience.
* Helps with care cover and transport costs to enable carers to attend Ace Plus courses.