The huge variation in the support received by those looking after an older, disabled or seriously-ill loved one is having a damaging impact on the health of carers and their ability to look after the person they care for, according to new research launched today for Carers Week 2015.

Two-thirds (65%) of carers say one or more of the services in their local areas is not carer-friendly as it fails to recognise and support them in their caring role. As a result six in ten (61%) carers say this lack of support is having a negative impact on their health.

What’s more, two-thirds (65%) of carers say the experience of local services that fail to consider or support them has made it more difficult to look after the person they are caring for. The support provided by the UK’s seven  million unpaid carers saves the country £119bn a year3; a saving that is at risk if a lack of carer-friendly communities continue to make it hard for carers to look after their partners, relatives or friends. 

The support carers get from their community and local services varies greatly throughout the country, as the research for Carers Week shows:

  • 39% of carers say their local high street, in terms of layout, shops, parking and public toilets, is not carer-friendly, yet 20% say it is 
  • 25% of carers say their hospital is not carer-friendly, but 36% say it is
  • 20% of carers say their GP practice is not carer-friendly, however 56% say it is. 

This lottery of local support has driven the six charities behind Carers Week 2015 to call on individuals, organisations and services to build more ‘carer-friendly communities’ to improve the lives of local carers. 

Carers Week Manager Diana Walles said:

“It can make a huge difference to the lives of carers when they are supported by their local services and communities; whether it is a GP surgery being more flexible with their appointment times, employers creating and implementing carer-friendly policies, or a local supermarket training their staff to better identify hidden carers and signpost them to information about support services in the local area. 

“Despite this, the variation in the quality of carer-friendly services across the country is putting the health of carers, and their ability to support the people they care for, at risk. This Carers Week, we’re trying to change this reality. We’re calling on individuals and organisations to think about what they can do to improve the lives of carers in their community.”

Gail Scott-Spicer, chief executive of Carers Trust added:

“Three in five of us will become carers at some point in our lives. It’s rarely something you can plan for, but by building more carer-friendly communities we can help to recognise and support the needs of millions of unpaid carers who are already caring for sick or disabled family or friends.”

Carers Week is made possible by Carers UK joining forces with Age UK, Carers Trust, Independent Age, Macmillan Cancer Support and MS Society. 

Thousands of events are taking place across the country this week, and thousands of people have already pledged their support for carers online. Individuals and organisations can get involved and pledge their support to the campaign at www.carersweek.org.

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