Councils across England considering charging carers for support are being urged to put carers' wellbeing at the heart of their decision and to continue to help them free of charge.

Research by Carers Trust found that a growing number of councils are considering charging carers for the support they receive, putting them in financial difficulties and at risk of ill health.

Freedom of Information requests were sent to 147 local authorities in England to find out how many are currently charging carers for support, the impact those charges are having on carers and the number of councils that will be debating the introduction of charges in the next twelve months. Eight of the 132 councils that responded currently impose a charge, and another 23 will be considering charging in the next 12 months. Costs currently in place range from £3 per week to £16.98 per week per carer.

It is estimated that there are 247,539 unpaid carers living in the eight authorities which are currently charging, meaning that nearly 5% of carers in England live in authorities where they face potentially being charged if they are assessed as needing support from the local authority.

Dr Moira Fraser, Director of Policy and Research for Carers Trust, said:

"The lives of many carers are already very stressful and the prospect of being charged when they ask for some support is simply wrong. It would leave many carers in dire straits if they are deterred from accessing the support they need but have to continue caring to the detriment of their own health and wellbeing.

"It's time we realised that carers need more support, not less, and we urge any councils that are considering charging carers not to take this step. Instead, we call on the government to increase the funding given to local councils for social care so that they can provide carers with the best help and support possible. We owe it to carers and the people they care for."

Tom Brake MP, Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington and Shadow Opposition Leader of the House of Commons added:

This report from Carers Trust has highlighted a worrying trend which is seeing the support given to unpaid carers turned from being an essential into a luxury service.

"We have to reverse that trend now in the interests of carers, the people that they care for, and the stability of our entire social care system. Carers need to be championed and I suport Carers Trust in their call on councils not to charge carers for support and in urging the government to plug the widening gap in social care funding."

Find our more about the research.