No life of my own: the fate of the UK’s carers
More than three-quarters (76%) of people looking after an ill, frail or disabled loved one do not have a life outside of their caring role, according to new research issued to launch Carers Week (14-20 June).
The results show that huge numbers of carers are left isolated and lonely, missing out on opportunities that the rest of the population takes for granted. 80% have been forced to give up leisure activities or from going out socially since becoming a carer.
The majority of those surveyed can no longer rely on relatives for support either, as these relationships have suffered as a result of caring- 75% say they have lost touch with family and friends.
Theresa, 50 from Glasgow cares for 3 people – her 2 sons, one of whom has Down’s Syndrome, and her registered blind mother. Balancing full-time work with caring has meant sacrificing her life as she once knew it. She says:
“A life of my own is a daydream. Caring demands are relentless, and costs you your health, relationships and happiness. To have a life of my own, for just one day would be marvellous.”
Carers say they simply exist, are marginalised and invisible. Unable to socialise, to have romantic relationships, or even to consider having children, the impact on carers is emotional, mental, physical, and financial. 4 out of every 5 carers say they’re worse off while more than half (54%) say they’ve had to give up work.
Despite saving the UK economy £87 billion annually by relieving pressure on health and social services, carers are not being supported in the vital role they play for both their communities and society at large. Almost all carers questioned agreed a life of their own would be achievable if they received breaks, a decent income and were given support in times of crisis.
Carers Week celebrity ambassador, Arlene Phillips OBE, world renowned choreographer and TV personality, best known for her role in BBC 1’s Strictly Come Dancing, has shared her personal experience of caring. Arlene Philips says:
“I helped to look after my father when he was suffering from Dementia, so I know what a strain it can be, both physically and emotionally. You can feel so alone and isolated. Several million carers look after a parent, child, partner or friend, with love and dedication. Many do not receive the support and recognition they deserve. I’m supporting Carers Week, and all that it’s doing to make carers aware of the many organisations ready to care for carers.”
Carers Week is organised by 7 national charities: Carers UK, Counsel and Care, Crossroads Care, Help the Hospices, Macmillan Cancer Support, Parkinson’s UK and The Princess Royal Trust for Carers. The week campaigns for greater recognition and support for the UK’s six million carers, and celebrates the contribution carers make to society. The charities are calling for major changes to help give carers a life of their own:
Paul Matz, Carers Week Manager says:
“Carers need and deserve change. We need to see better access to advice and information, improved funding for breaks, and support and flexibility for carers at the workplace. Only then will carers get a real chance at a life of their own, and the opportunity to do some of the things that the rest of us take for granted.”
Other celebrities supporting Carers Week, all of whom have had experience of caring, include: Lynda Bellingham, Cilla Black, Jonathan Dimbleby, Sir David Jason, Phyllida Law , Angela Rippon, Tony Robinson, Dr Chris Steele, John Stapleton and Miriam Margolyes.