A new survey* by Carers Trust, the largest charity for unpaid carers in the UK has found that many unpaid carers are missing out on online support because they simply don't know it exists.
The survey found that more than half (56%) of unpaid carers surveyed don't access online support. When asked why they didn't access online support 43% said they didn't know it existed.
Accessing online support can make a real difference to unpaid carers lives. More than half of the carers (53%) who did access online support said that it had made a difference to their lives, with 58% saying that they used it to access advice.
- Almost one in four unpaid carers (37%) said they used it because they couldn't leave the house much;
- 16% of unpaid carers who accessed online support said it reduced their feelings of isolation;
- 17% said it enabled them to communicate with other unpaid carers.
Unpaid carers who didn't access online support said that if they did they would use it to access advice (74%), connect with other carers (41%) and to take a break (27%).
The findings come as Carers Trust launches its new, online resource carers.org, partly funded by Nabarro, which features new advice pages, a map to help carers find their local support service and online community pages where unpaid carers can chat to other carers, find advice and support in the forums and ask the online support team directly for help.
The resource focuses on using online technology to make sure that unpaid carers who are isolated and cannot visit a carers centre or service can still get help, advice and support when they need it.
"So many unpaid carers are isolated due to their caring roles," comments Gail Scott-Spicer, Chief Executive of Carers Trust.
"Many tell us that they can't get out of the house very much, as our own survey highlights. But the new carers.org can offer them access to a community of like-minded people who can support each other online. Our online support service is available 24/7, 365 days a year and can provide that much needed support that some unpaid carers need.
"Often, just knowing that the service exists means they don't feel so alone."
Louise Gellman, Nabarro Partner and Charity Committee Chair, said:
"At Nabarro we strive to support causes which benefit our communities locally and we are delighted to support the launch of the new Carers Trust website. Being able to make such a difference to thousands of unpaid carers is a great legacy to a fantastic partnership."
Marie, 44 cares for her daughter Jasmine, 21 who has complex needs. Marie cares for Jasmine 24/7 as Jasmine can do little for herself. With no family close by and a husband who works full time, Marie relies a lot on online support.
"I use online support to take a break," she comments.
"It gives me some me time. Contact with other carers is so important, especially when you feel quite isolated as I do. I have no family close by and don't really have to time to meet with friends."
Caring for one child with complex needs is hard enough but caring for two is exhausting. For Miriam, who lives in Hamilton, Lanarkshire, the daily routine of caring for seven year old twins Isaac and Naomi, who were conceived after 10 years of infertility, means she never gets break. She uses carers.org to get support.
"I find online support immensely helpful," she comments.
"The carers forums give me the opportunity to get advice and support from other parent carers. I just don't have the time to get face to face support so carers.org is so important to me."
* The survey was carried out via SurveyMonkey. There were 530 responses.