William Eichler 11 July 2017

Unpaid carers ‘struggling’ to take a break

One in four unpaid carers have not had a single day off in five years, shocking survey reveals.

Published today by the charity Carers UK, the survey also found four in 10 (40%) of unpaid carers have not had a break in over one year and 87% ‘struggle’ to find time away from caring duties.

The charity discovered the lack of a break was leading to health problems. 73% of unpaid carers questioned for the report said they had experienced a deterioration in their mental health.

Entitled State of Caring 2017, the report also shows 65% said they had physical problems as a result of being a carer.

The barriers to taking a break highlighted in the report included the cost. 31% said they were reluctant to pay for or contribute towards the cost of a break.

General care concerns were also a barrier. 31% said the person they cared for was unwilling to accept support from others, while 27% said support was not on offer, and 19% reported having low confidence in the quality of care.

Around 16% of carers said they would not know how to request a break.

The Care Act, which was put in place two years ago, places stronger duties on local authorities to support carers. However, Carers UK warns ‘these new rights are not improving the lives of many carers in England.’

Almost a third (29%) of carers are worried that practical support for them might be reduced in the future, the charity found citing the backdrop of cuts to adult social care services as the reason.

More than a third (34%) of carers reported a change in the services they or the person they care for receives and, of these, four in 10 (39%) experienced a reduction in the amount of support offered by social services.

‘More and more of us are stepping in to provide care and support to loved ones and doing so for more hours every week,’ said Heléna Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK.

‘Without access to breaks, carers can quickly reach breaking point, unable to look after their own health, nurture relationships with friends and family or have the time they need to themselves.

‘Our research shows that carers are struggling to get a break because appropriate support for their loved ones isn’t available or services they rely on are being cut or charged for.

‘The need for an action plan from the Government on how they will improve support to carers is now urgent. Increasing funding for carers’ breaks is a key part of the change needed to support people to care without putting their own lives on hold.’

Ms Herklots added that the unpaid care provided by the UK’s 6.5 million carers was estimated to be worth £132bn each year. The ONS puts the figure closer to £60bn.

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