Broke and broken: carers battle poverty and depression

Over one in three (37%) carers do not want to wake up in the morning because of dire financial circumstances and are calling on the government for greater support, reveals new research launched today (Thursday 23rd September) by The Princess Royal Trust for Carers.

The survey of 800, who care unpaid for a sick and disabled family member, found that over half (53%) of all carers who work earn less than £10,000 a year, with three-fifths (60%) having to spend all of their savings to support the person they care for. 89% say that they are financially worse off as a result of caring and, consequently, almost two-fifths (39%) fear they will lose their home.

To cover basic living needs, one in ten (10%) carers questioned have borrowed exceptionally high-interest loans (41% plus APR), while three-fifths (62%) have had to borrow money off family and friends.

The added financial pressures are causing nearly half (45%) carers to want to run away from their caring role, while 15% are turning to alcohol or drugs to cope. Unsurprisingly, over one in three (37%) carers surveyed are fearful of the future.

Karen, 42, is one example of a carer battling poverty and depression. Karen became a carer for her husband when he was diagnosed with neurofibromatosis and chronic arthritis. She told The Trust: “Since Mark became ill we have cascaded into poverty. I was declared bankrupt; I have lost a well-paid job, our house and the future we thought we’d have – all as a result of my caring role. I was so desperate I even borrowed from a loan shark to cover an electric bill and was charged 47 per cent interest per day.

“The stress of caring and the financial worries we’ve had to endure, led me to have a nervous breakdown a few years ago. I am better, but, some days I feel on my own, fraught with worry and at breaking point.

“I never thought we’d be a couple who depended on the state for help. We can just about cover the bills, but we still struggle to pay for food and cover our rent. I feel I have been penalised by the government for caring for my husband.”

To address these issues, one in two (49%) carers surveyed is calling on the new coalition government to increase the Carer’s Allowance and one in three (29%) want greater support to make it easier for them to combine caring and paid work.

Carole Cochrane, Chief Executive at The Princess Royal Trust for Carers says: “The new coalition government has an opportunity to improve the lives of millions of carers. As part of their welfare reform they must ensure greater financial support for carers, and the Comprehensive Spending Review must deliver the improved community support for carers to combine work and care, as pledged already by the government in June. Six million carers will judge the government by the decisions they make in the next two months.”

The Princess Royal Trust for Carers has launched a new advice guide for carers 10 things every carer should know. Carers can also get help by visiting their local Trust Carers’ Centre.

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