Carers Week charities are calling for an urgent 12-month plan of targeted support for unpaid carers, as many struggle with the ongoing impact, as well as the legacy, of the pandemic, together with the strain of the social care and cost of living crises.
For the first time, the impact of caring on their own physical and mental health has topped carer’s concerns, closely followed by money worries.
The research, released for Carers Week 2022 (6-12 June), reveals that 84% of the general public think that the UK governments should provide additional support to unpaid carers including increased financial support and investment in care and support services so that unpaid carers can have a break. Only 3% disagreed.
The report also shows that the number of unpaid carers remains higher than before the pandemic with one in five of the UK’s adults (approximately 10.58 million people) now supporting a relative, close friend or neighbour because of chronic illness, including mental ill-health, dementia, disability, or older age.
The intensity of care they are providing has grown since earlier in the pandemic, with several factors possibly having an impact: Many services remain reduced or closed, vulnerable people continue to shield, pressures on primary health care and the chronic shortage of social care. The numbers of people providing over 50 hours per week has risen by 30%.
At the same time, carers with lower household incomes were much more likely to be providing significant amounts of care (i.e, over 20 hours per week). Providing more care also reduces the chance to cope financially as carers are less likely to be able to juggle work and care.
The seven charities supporting Carers Week 2022; Carers UK, Age UK, Carers Trust, MND Association, Rethink Mental Illness, Oxfam GB and The Lewy Body Society are calling for a recovery and respite plan dedicated to the needs of carers including: specific investment in their mental health support, carers leave a priority, help with food and energy costs and ahead of the winter, prioritisation in the vaccination programme.
Commenting on behalf of Carers Week charities, Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK said:
Clearly, whilst society has opened up for many people, it’s a very different picture for significant numbers of carers.
"So many have sacrificed their physical and mental health caring for their loved ones over the last two years and as this report clearly shows, it is absolutely essential that carers get the support they need to stay well to be able to continue to care for their loved ones, that working carers are helped to stay in employment and that all carers can feel visible, valued and supported."