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Inadequate support from health services is damaging life chances of UK’s carers

07 June 2016

The life chances of many of the 6.5 million people in the UK who care, unpaid, for a disabled, older or ill family member or friend, are being damaged by inadequate support from health services, according to new research launched today for Carers Week 2016.1 

Carers are key partners in managing the care needs of the people they look after. They also form a hugely significant group of patients who need particular support to look after their own health. Yet, despite this, full time carers are twice as likely to be in bad health as non-carers.2

Today’s Carers Week research shows that health services are not doing enough to support carers: 

  • Over half (55%) said their GP practice has not informed them about how they can get practical support as a carer, such as respite
  • Almost half (45%) said that their GP practice does not offer an annual health check for carers
  • 2 in 5 (42%) said they haven’t received any training or information to help keep them well
  • A quarter (26%) said they struggle to get to their own health tests, check-ups and specialist appointments
  • Almost a quarter (21%) said their hospital does not recognise their caring role

This inadequate support from local health services is having a significant impact on carers’ life chances. As a result of the barriers carers face to maintaining a healthy lifestyle:

  • More than half (51%) have let a health problem go untreated
  • Half (50%) have seen their mental health get worse
  • Over a third (35%) have physically injured themselves
  • Almost a  third (31%) only get help when it’s an emergency

Carers Week health info tiles

When carers are supported by their community, they are three times more likely to always be able to maintain a healthy lifestyle.3 However, only a minority of carers say they actually feel valued and recognised by their community (26%), indicating that there is still a long way to go.


 

Emily Holzhausen, who leads the Carers Week partnership, said:

“If carers aren’t supported to care well for themselves and their loved ones, they will be more likely to be unable to continue caring. If this happens, not only will the consequences for carers and their families be huge, but the NHS and public services will be forced to step in. With NHS and local authority budgets already stretched to their limits, this could put them under immeasurable pressure.

“When carers are supported by their communities, they are three times more likely to always be able to maintain a healthy lifestyle. We understand that greater investment in health and social care services from all Governments across the UK is vital, but for Carers Week, we are urging health and care services and professionals to look how they can improve the way they support carers today.”

Simple actions that health and care services can take to improve the way they support carers, include:

  • Flexible appointment times to fit around someone’s caring role, priority appointment slots for carers, or home visits for carers
  • Offer annual health checks for carers
  • Give carers information and advice about how to look after their own health, as well as signposting carers to local carers’ organisations and support services
  • Involve carers in conversations about the treatment of the person they look after

The seven charities driving Carers Week are keen to highlight that whilst Carer Friendly Communities can make a significant difference to the life chances of the UK’s carers, they can only go so far without Governments across the UK address the chronic underfunding of social care support.

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


Ends

Media contact

Case studies, good practice examples and spokespeople are available on request.

For media enquiries, please contact Lisa Gilbert, Senior Media and Case Study Officer at Carers UK and for Carers Week, on:

  • 020 7378 4937
  • 07534 630 667 (out of hours)

References

1 Building Carer Friendly Communities, Carers Week [2016]

The Carers Week research report, Building Carer Friendly Communities, is based on responses from 6,149 carers who completed Carers UK’s annual State of Caring survey online between March-April 2016.

The statistics in this press release are based on the responses of the 5,682 people who are currently caring for a family member or friend in the UK. They do not include responses from the 467 people who declared they are not currently caring for a loved one, as their caring role has come to an end.

Compared to the carer population as a whole, respondents to this survey were more likely to be female, disabled themselves and caring for a high number of hours every week.

2 Census 2011

3 Building Carer Friendly Communities, Carers Week [2016]

About Carers Week 2016

Carers Week will take place from 6–12 June 2016, across the UK.

Carers Week is an annual awareness campaign which takes place to celebrate and recognise the vital contribution made by the UK’s 6.5 million carers. It is also a time of intensive local activity with thousands of events planned for carers across the UK.

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

Carers Week is kindly supported by Sainsbury’s, Nutricia and the Lockwood Charitable Foundation. 

Carer Friendly Communities

Carer Friendly Communities are places where local people and services understand a carer’s daily reality and do what they can to make life a little bit easier for them. For example, a GP practice might offer appointment times that fit around someone’s caring responsibilities, or an employer might implement HR policies to support employees who juggle work with care.

www.carersweek.org/about-carer-friendly-communities   

What is a carer?

A carer is someone who provides unpaid care and support to a family member or friend who has a disability, illness, mental health problem or who needs extra help as they grow older.

For some, taking on a caring role can be sudden: someone in your family has an accident or your child is born with a disability. For others, caring creeps up unnoticed: your parents can’t manage on their own any longer or your partner’s health gradually worsens.

The amount and type of support that carers provide varies considerably. It can range from a few hours a week, such as picking up prescriptions and preparing meals, to providing care day and night.

Caring will touch each and every one of us in our lifetime, whether we become a carer or need care ourselves. Whilst caring can be a rewarding experience, it can also have a damaging impact on a person’s health, finances and relationships.

To find out how you can get support in your caring role, visit: www.carersweek.org/support

Facts about carers

  • By 2037, it is estimated that the number of carers in the UK will rise to 9 million
  • Every day another 6,000 people take on a caring responsibility – that equals over 2 million people every year
  • 58% of carers are women and 42% are men
  • Carers save the economy £132 billion per year, an average of £19,336 per carer
  • Over 3 million people juggle care with work, however the significant demands of caring mean that 1 in 5 carers are forced to give up work altogether

Carers Week 2018

These organisations joined together to make Carers Week happen in 2017

  • logo01
  • Carers UK new logo
  • image description
  • independent age
  • macmillan
  • MSS-logo-orange partnersrow
  • MND logo
  • Which Elderly Care logo

Proudly supported by:

  • The Lockwood
    Charitable Foundation
  • Nutricia

 

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