Almost half of unpaid family carers not getting the support they need as caring hours soar, Carers Trust survey finds
Lack of support particularly acute for ethnic minority carers, LGB+ carers, older carers, those from poorer backgrounds and women
“The great majority of those who care do so because support, in practical and financial terms, doesn’t exist. They see no alternative, and a lack of action by the UK Government ensures this crisis continues.” - Unpaid carer Karen
The main findings include:
- Only 55% of all unpaid carers get the support they need to be an unpaid carer
- 41% say caring hours have increased over last year with one-in-eight caring for an extra 50 hours a week or more
- Unpaid carers are exhausted but more than two thirds (68%) are unable to get a respite break from their caring role when needed
- Unpaid carers from the most vulnerable groups - older people, LBG+ carers, those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic and lower socio-economic communities and women carers - receiving least help
- Carers Trust calls for overhaul of “completely inadequate” Carer’s Allowance benefit
Almost half the UK’s estimated 7 million unpaid family carers aren’t getting the support they need to get by, while 41% say the hours they spend caring have soared over the past year, a survey by national charity Carers Trust has found.
Broken social care system means carers spend more time caring for relatives
The survey of 3,430 unpaid carers from across the UK lays bare how an under-funded and broken social care system is placing unsustainable pressure on unpaid carers who are experiencing significant increases in the amount of time they need to care for sick and disabled relatives.
One in eight carers (12%) said that, over the last year, the average amount of time they spend caring each week had risen by more than 50 hours. An additional one third (36%) of carers said they had experienced an equivalent rise of 20-49 hours per week in their caring role.
Older carers, women carers and carers from ethnic minority and LGB+ communities find it harder to access support
Even more significantly, the survey highlighted alarming inequalities between different groups of carers as to the level of support they are able to access. Unpaid carers from ethnic minority and LGB+ communities, as well as older carers and female carers, reported greater difficulty in finding and accessing support.
The survey showed that, while only 55% of all carers feel they are getting enough support, support levels drop further among older people, those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and women.
Higher proportions of LGB+ carers and people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities also faced additional barriers in accessing help.
Unpaid carers aged 50-65 felt most strongly that they do not get enough support to be an unpaid carer (73%) while 58% of over-65s felt the same way. Among those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, 64% said they don’t get adequate support compared to just 11% of those from the most wealthy backgrounds.
Just 16% of those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities said they had been signposted to support by their local authority, compared to 31% of white carers, and only 6% had received support from councils.
For LGB+ carers, just 4% were signposted to support by local authorities and only 7% were signposted by health providers.
And 58% of females, who make up the majority of unpaid carers in the UK, said they don’t receive sufficient support, compared to only 27% of male carers experiencing the same lack of support.
Limited signposting to support from councils and health services
Many of those surveyed said they were not directed to support by councils, health services or other organisations and instead had to find out about available help themselves, suggesting a system that isn’t working for them. Carers Trust is calling for the commissioning of more specialist programmes to identify, hear from and support underrepresented groups of carers.
One unpaid carer said: “I wish we had someone who could support me through this journey and help me understand what’s out there – I just want to feel guided on how to be the best carer I can be, but you are left from day one to get on with it. No wonder unpaid carers feel so alone at times.”
A separate survey from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) earlier this year showed burnout as the number one reason why unpaid care breaks down. Carers Trust’s survey shows how they struggle to get respite, with only 32% of unpaid carers saying they can access a break when they need one.
Meanwhile, more than a third (36%) of unpaid carers don’t think the NHS understands their caring responsibilities and gives them appropriate support.
Carer’s Allowance insufficient and needs a complete overhaul
Carer’s Allowance is the main benefit for unpaid carers but only 38% said it was enough to make a meaningful difference to them. At just £76.75 a week in England and Wales, Carer’s Allowance is the lowest benefit of its kind and its strict eligibility criteria - claimants must earn £139 a week or less after tax and must be spending a minimum of 35 hours a week caring for someone – actively discourages full-time work. As part of its recommendations, Carers Trust is calling for the benefit to be completely overhauled.
One carer said: “Carer’s Allowance is pitiful. I’ve had to give up my full-time job so my mum doesn’t go into a care home which would cost the Government thousands. Yet all I get is £76 a week?”
Carers Trust’s CEO, Kirsty McHugh, said:
“These shocking findings show how some of the most vulnerable people in our society are being left alone to shoulder the burden of unpaid care. It’s vital that support becomes more inclusive and accessible, recognising the diverse experience of the UK’s seven million unpaid carers.
“Many carers tell us their local carer organisations are a lifeline in these difficult times but these services require more funding and staff to ensure they can continue to provide high-quality support. Meanwhile, many are being pushed into poverty by having to give up paid work due to their caring role, often having to make do with Carer’s Allowance, a benefit which had proved completely inadequate and must urgently be overhauled.
“The fact that so many say they aren’t getting enough support should be a wake-up call to the UK government. It is high-time they fixed social care and eased the demands on millions of undervalued unpaid carers in this country.”
In response to the Carers Trust survey, Beverley Tarka, President of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said:
“Many carers, particularly women or those from Black, Asian or minority ethnic communities, are paying a high price for caring with their health and finances, and we are seeing increasing levels of breakdown among carers.
“Language and cultural barriers can make getting advice and support harder, with many carers preferring ‘not to make a fuss’ or seeing caring as their duty.
“Directors of adult social care like myself want to do more to keep both carers and the people they are caring for, well and independent at home, before they reach crisis point and require more costly medical care. Ahead of the next election we are calling on political parties of all colours to set out a long-term plan for investment in adult social care, so everyone can get the care they need, when they need it.”
NOTES TO EDITOR
The full report on the survey findings is available here: “Unpaid carers are not unsung heroes. We are forgotten, neglected and burnt out”
For further information, and to arrange interviews with Carers Trust spokespeople and unpaid carer case studies, please contact:
Mark Chandler, firstname.lastname@example.org and 07712 427808
Matt Whitticase, email@example.com and 07824 539481
About Carers Trust
Carers Trust is the UK charity working to transform the lives of unpaid carers across the UK. It partners with its network of local carer organisations to provide funding and support, deliver innovative and evidence-based programmes and raise awareness & influence policy. Carers Trust’s vision is that unpaid carers are heard and valued, with access to support, advice and resources to enable them to live fulfilled lives.
To find your nearest local carer organisation for advice and support, visit carers.org