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In Sickness and in Health

There are an estimated 6.4 million people in the UK currently caring for a family member or friend. Carers look after people who are disabled, frail or ill. They work alongside professionals, volunteers, care homes, special schools and community groups often caring for people in their own home. The hours of care that they provide for ill, frail or disabled people often comes at a cost to their own health and well-being. The impact on a carers’ health and well-being, finances and relationships cannot be underestimated.

In the run up to this year’s Carers Week a partnership of eight charities set out to explore through an online survey, the impact of caring on carers’ health and well-being. In addition, the charities wanted to explore the extent to which carers were able to access services and if the cuts to social care were having an effect.

The report In Sickness and in Health is the findings of the survey of nearly 3,400 carers and their experiences. It concludes with recommendations from the eight charity partners and a call to action for the four governments of the UK.

KEY FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS

  • 84 per cent of carers that responded to the survey never expected to be a carer.
  • Carers stated that caring had a negative impact on their physical health (83 per cent) and mental health (87 per cent).
  • 39 per cent have put off medical treatment because of caring.
  • 37 per cent of carers aged 18 to 64 years old had to cease working because of their caring responsibilities.
  • Carers also identified the factors they believe have impacted on their physical and mental health:
  • 64 per cent identified a lack of practical support as being a contributing factor and
  • 50 per cent stated that a lack of financial support had an impact.
  • Cuts to public spending are also having an impact on carers and causing additional stress and anxiety:
  • 26 per cent of carers that responded to the survey reported that they had already experienced cuts to their services.
  • 40 per cent of carers also reported that the stress of waiting for financial and practical support had an impact.

The survey shows these changes to services are impacting negatively on carers’ health, ability to work, afford services and so on. The Carers Week charities are calling for the following in order to take action on carers’ health and well-being:

  1. Sustainable funding of social care: social care is chronically underfunded. Carers and their families are being pushed to breaking point by a lack of support, seeing their services cut or unable to use poor quality or unreliable services. It is also vital that we have a skilled and trained workforce to support people. We need the government of the four nations and local government to work together to deliver sustainable funding for social care to meet unmet need and growing demand.
  2. Ongoing support and breaks from caring: carers already struggling to care are concerned that funding for carers services, and particularly short breaks, is not always spent on carers or may be cut. With evidence of a growing number of carers, and that carers are caring for longer hours it is essential that funding is maintained, or increased.
  3. Support from their GP: GPs are often the first people who families speak to when they are dealing with ill health and disability. GPs have a key role to play in identifying and registering carers, monitoring their health and signposting them to advice, information and support, including ensuring they know they are entitled to a carer’s assessment.

For more information about the report contact helen.clarke@carersuk.org

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