This Carers Week we are joining our partners in recognising the enormous contribution unpaid carers have made, and continue to make, every day. Making Caring Visible and Valued is this year’s theme so we have pooled some resources and statistics from our partners to help stress some of the struggles unpaid carers are facing.
“There are 6.5 million people in the UK who are carers. They are looking after a family member or friend who has a disability, mental or physical illness or who needs extra help as they grow older. Caring’s impact on all aspects of life from relationships and health to finances and work can be significant, and carers are facing even more difficult circumstances this year. Whilst many feel that caring is one of the most important things they do, its challenges should not be underestimated. Caring without the right information and support can be tough. It is vitally important that we recognise the contribution carers make to their families and local communities, workplaces and society, and that they get the support they need.” (Carers Week 2021)
The Social Metrics Commission’s ‘Measuring Poverty 2020’ Report found that in the UK, “Half (50%) of all people in poverty live in a family that includes a disabled person. 4 million people in poverty are themselves disabled and another 3.2 million live in a family that includes someone else who is disabled.
Furthermore, research from the Trussell Trust’s The State of Hunger shows, “More than six in ten (62%) of working-age people referred to a food bank in early 2020 were disabled – that’s more than three times the rate in the UK working age population.” These stark statistics enable us to see how unpaid care often affects the financial stability of a household as equally as the emotional toll. Carers often have to reduce the amount they are able to work in lieu of their caring responsibilities or struggle to manage both. Earlier research has found that 2.6 million people have given up work to provide unpaid care, unpaid carers are more likely to be in poor health and 1.2 million unpaid carers are in poverty.
Covid19 has also had a huge impact on siblings with caring responsibilities. Sibs, a charity whose focus is to support those with a disabled sibling, found that 91% of adults with a disabled brother or sister said that Lockdown had made their situation more challenging and many siblings have also become young carers for the first time. Additionally, a Carers Trust report states, “The majority of young carers have had little or no break at all from their caring role during lockdown.”
Breaks or Breakdown – New research published for Carers Week also calls attention to how carers, already over stretched, are exhausted and unable to manage as a result of the pandemic. “72% of carers who responded to our survey said they have not had any breaks at all.” Most worryingly, whilst many carers said they would use a break to look after their wellbeing and maintain social connections, many said they would use time off to do essential things; to go to a medical appointment (26%) or to do housework (33%), which is not a real break and cannot restore mental and physical health.
The six charities supporting Carers Week – Carers UK, Age UK, Carers Trust, Motor Neurone Disease Association, Oxfam GB and Rethink Mental Illness – are calling on the UK Government to provide £1.2 billion funding for unpaid carers’ breaks, so that those providing upwards of 50 hours of care are able to take time off for their own health and wellbeing.