Combination of inadequate support and lack of awareness from communities is damaging life chances of UK’s carers

The life chances of many of the 6.5 million people in the UK who care, unpaid, for a disabled, older or ill family member or friend, are being damaged by inadequate support from local services, according to new research launched today for Carers Week 2016.

What’s more, when carers face a lack of understanding about their caring role from the overall community,2 the negative impact on their health, wellbeing, relationships and finances is exacerbated.

Three-quarters of carers (74%) with some of the most intensive caring responsibilities say their community does not understand or value their caring role, resulting in high numbers of carers struggling to balance other areas of their lives alongside caring.

One carer said:

“As a carer attempting to get understanding, advice, support and emergency care from the ‘community’ – such as GP, public transport, social services, dentist pharmacies and hospitals – it can be very challenging, exhausting and beyond stressful.”

Mixed support from local services means that the majority of carers are facing barriers to maintaining their health, balancing work and care, and balancing education and care3, which is having a markedly negatively impact on their life chances:

  • Over half of carers (51%) have let a health problem go untreated
  • Half of carers (50%) have seen their mental health get worse
  • Two thirds of carers (66%) have given up work or reduced their hours to care
  • Almost half of carers (47%) have struggled financially
  • Almost one third of carers (31%) only get help when it is an emergency

One carer said:

“I find my care needs pushed further and further away until they break down completely and become an emergency. Last time this happened, I was in hospital for 10 days.”

The Carers Week research shows that when carers are supported by their community, they face far fewer barriers to having a life outside of their caring role:4

  • Carers who are supported by their communities are three times more likely to always be able to maintain a healthy lifestyle (27% compared with 9%)
  • Carers who are supported by their communities are three times more likely to always be able to maintain relationships with close friends and family (29% compared with 9%)
  • Carers who are not supported by their communities are more than twice as likely to never be able to balance work with care (35% compared with 15%)
  • Carers who are not supported by their communities are more than twice as likely to never be able to balance education with care (47% compared with 23%)

Emily Holzhausen, who leads the Carers Week partnership, said:

“Carers have told us that it makes a huge difference to their lives when they are supported by their local services and communities; whether that’s being offered a flexible appointment to see their GP, having flexible working policies from their employers, or their school raising awareness of caring and disability.“Despite this, the majority of carers told us that their local community was not supportive of their caring role, which in turn is having a significant and negatively impact on their life chances.

“This report comes at an opportune moment, with a new Carers’ Strategy in development in England, and new governments forming across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We’re calling on individuals, organisations and governments to think about what they can do to improve the lives of carers in their community.”

The seven charities driving Carers Week are calling for adequate funding for social care support to be prioritised by newly elected Governments and Assemblies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and by the UK Government.

Carers Week is made possible by Carers UK joining forces with Age UK, Carers Trust, Independent Age, Macmillan Cancer Support, Motor Neurone Disease Association and MS Society.

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