Many unpaid carers struggle on for years looking after sick or disabled family members or friends without help, according to research from the new leading carers’ charity Carers Trust.
Almost two thirds (64%) of those polled said that apart from family and friends they have never accessed any other support or services such as respite breaks or counselling. Six in ten (60%) of those that have been caring for more than five years have done so without accessing any additional support.
Of those who have sought out extra help, almost half (46%) did so after they were made aware that assistance was available specifically for carers, according to a survey of 500 unpaid adult carers, carried out by YouGov for Carers Trust which works to improve services and support for unpaid carers through our network of local carers’ centres and schemes.
Anne Roberts, Chief Executive of Carers Trust said: ‘As this survey shows many unpaid carers have never accessed any support services to help them in their caring role. We already know that many carers simply don’t have any awareness of the kind of help that is out there and what a huge difference it could make to their lives. We’ve launched Carers Trust so we can ensure that all carers know where to go to get that help when they need it and to help society recognise and value the role of carers in our communities across the UK.’
Battling on as a carer without support can lead to serious problems in carers’ lives. Almost six in ten (59%) carers said that being a carer had a negative impact on their working life. And almost six in ten (58%) of the carers surveyed said that their mental health has been affected by being a carer while more than a quarter (27%) said both their physical and mental health has been adversely affected by their caring role.
Norman had to stop working in 2008 aged 56 to become a full-time carer for his wife, Linda, who has MS. He explains: ‘I was struggling with keeping my job going and trying to ensure that my wife was safe enough to allow me to go out to work. The pressure on me eventually led to my own health failing. The stress of trying to manage a challenging job and cope with Linda’s needs led to me ending up in the Cardiac Unit at our local hospital.
‘I was left with no choice but to give up my job and become a full-time carer. The impact of this choice had serious financial implications and this led to depression and a feeling that I had gone from being a person to a resource called “carer”. I was invisible.
‘When I first contacted my local Carers’ Centre, I spoke to a Carer Support Worker and for the first time in many years, there was someone willing to listen to me rather than offering the usual retort of "but it is much worse for your wife because of her illness". The Carers’ Centre helped me to restore my self-respect and confidence and now I feel proud of what I do to look after Linda.’
Film and TV stars Helen Mirren, Dame Judi Dench and Joanna Lumley are among the well-known names supporting Carers Trust. Dame Judi Dench said: ‘There are almost six million carers in the UK and the number is rising. Many of those carers are unaware of the support that is available to them and continue looking after their family or friends without any help and often at a cost to their own health and wellbeing.’
Carers Trust, recently formed by the merger of The Princess Royal Trust for Carers and Crossroads Care, works to improve support, services and recognition for anyone living with the challenges of caring, unpaid, for a family member or friend who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental health or addiction problems. With our Network Partners of local carers’ centres and schemes, we aim to ensure that information, advice and practical support such as respite care are available to all carers across the UK.
Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, who has agreed to be President of Carers Trust said: ‘Carers Trust will provide a united and stronger voice for unpaid carers which will enable us to continue to raise awareness of carers’ issues with Government, other policy makers and the general public and hopefully increase funding opportunities to develop and deliver the services so needed by carers and those they care for.’
Carers can also get help by visiting their local Carers’ Centre or Crossroads Care Scheme or by going online at www.carers.org.