Across the UK an invisible army are caring for increasing numbers of older, ill or disabled loved ones. Research published today to mark the start of Carers Week 2014 reveals worrying public ignorance of the rising demand on families to provide unpaid care.

The Carers Week/YouGov poll reveals that the issue is drastically underestimated, with only 9% of the nation correctly stating the true scale of unpaid family care. And, despite the prediction that the number of carers will rise to 9 million by 2037, less than a third (29%) of adults surveyed who aren’t currently carers believe it likely they will be in the future.

The research also quizzed respondents on what they would be most concerned about should a loved one need care in the future, revealing the nation’s top three caring worries to be:

  1. Money worries – being unable to cope financially
  2. Emotional strain – finding it too stressful/upsetting
  3. I wouldn’t know how – not having the experience or skills to be a carer

Thea Stein, Chief Executive of Carers Trust, said: “Carers care 24/7 often every day of the year. This is a week however where we can focus and listen to the issues they face and raise awareness of the crucial part they play in their families and communities.”

 The same poll gathered the views of current carers, revealing that carers across the country are struggling behind closed doors without adequate help. Over half (53%) of carers polled said they were not receiving enough support. Some of the experiences they shared included:

“My brother cares full time for both my parents. My father’s 91 and unable to walk without assistance. My mother’s 86, has severe dementia and needs help 24/7. I help at weekends and one evening a week. My brother’s spoken to the doctor about care for my mother and was told the dementia nurse has a full case load. He’s contacted a charity who have agreed to help for two hours per week.”

“My daughter has spina bifida and is a full time wheelchair user….. At 60, it can be hard for me to push a manual wheelchair plus carry shopping up a hill. …

“I have been looking after my disabled wife for 13 years. … I work part time and my physical health is not great and sometimes I feel like I am cracking up.”