A charity has warned that cuts to spending on carers’ breaks are forcing hundreds of thousands of people to sacrifice their own health to prioritise care for loved ones.
Carers UK has revealed that spending on breaks through the £130m Better Care Fund is decreasing, with 78% of councils and 69% of clinical commissioning groups reporting spending a smaller percentage of the budget on breaks in 2017/18 compared to 2016/17.
The charity warned that this was having a negative impact on the health of carers.
Freedom of Information requests made by Carers UK found one in three carers looking after older, disabled or ill relatives say they would use a break from caring to attend a medical appointment.
Around half reported that they would catch up on much needed sleep.
Just 8% of England’s unpaid carers responding to Carers UK’s breaks survey say they have been able to take a sufficient break from caring. The majority of these carers provide over 50 hours of care every week.
Of those who did manage to take some time off, 44% used it to attend a medical appointment.
‘Imagine never having a break from work, a basic human right and essential for staying well. Then imagine you do get some time off and you have to head straight to the doctor. Is that really a break?’ said Helen Walker, chief executive of Carers UK.
‘Unpaid carers propping up our underfunded social care system are burning out and desperately need time off from their caring roles to look after themselves.
‘The Government’s recent £1.5bn injection into the system will stabilise it for now, but we must see a longer term strategy for social care that acknowledges the enormous contribution of unpaid carers, includes double the funding for carers’ breaks and puts breaks at the heart of social care reforms.’