Oh my, the recent report written by Carers UK as a result of their research with 7,397 carers does not paint a particularly positive picture. Given that the value of the informal support that they provide for their loved ones is worth more than the NHS’s annual budget in England (estimated at £132 billion per year) this is very worrying.
40% of unpaid carers said they had not had a break in over one year, whilst 25% had not received a single day away from caring in five years.
72% of those currently providing care said that they had suffered mental ill health such as stress or depression as a result of caring, whilst 61% reported that their physical health had worsened as a direct result of caring.
What worries me, even more, is that 23% of carers stated that they had refused health and care support due to concerns over quality. Not surprisingly, therefore, is the fact that 1 in 7 carers reported that they receive less care or support services from last year due to a reduction in social care.
On a positive note, 67% had received a carer’s assessment in the last 12 months. Although the cynic might comment that it isn’t much use knowing what support you need, if you can’t access it or the support offered is of too low a standard.
Carers, as we know, face issues that are related to not being able to work or not being able to hold down a full time, high paid job. Further research has shown that 2.1 million informal carers are in poverty, and 35% reported that they had to give up work to provide care.
The most disturbing finding, I feel, is that 50% of the carers expect their quality of life to get worse in the next 12 months. This is so worrying, because in the hardest of times, the presence of hope is what keeps us going. For 50% of the carers involved in the survey, this hope has gone.
The report goes on to make recommendations and I sincerely hope that these recommendations will be listened to and acted upon. Carer’s allowance needs increasing to, at least, the level of Job Seeker’s Allowance with the earnings threshold changing to enable carers to work more flexibility. Also – with many carers caring for the long term, there needs to be some form of allowance made in the form of a carers pension. It is hardly fair to expect someone to give the best part of their working life up to provide care for a loved one to then leave them impoverished in their older years. Health services need to work more at valuing and supporting carers. There needs to be an increase in funding for care services to ensure that the quality is delivered and maintained and carers breaks need to be funded in a transparent way that is fair to everyone. There are further recommendations for employers in relation to flexibility for carers which most should be able to put in place (if not already doing so).
At SoLO, Carers are at the heart of what we do. In providing care and support for children, young people and adults with a learning disability, their parents and carers are pivotal to their whole experience and we work closely with them to ensure that we get it right, not only for the individual we directly support, but for their whole family. We see, first hand, the challenges that are faced day in, day out by carers and the immense strength that they have as they face these with (on the whole) an amazing strength of character, optimism and fortitude. We only provide a small amount of support, compared to the 24/7 support provided by their carers, but know that this is essential to enable them to carry on and have hope for the future.
If you wish to read the whole report, it can be found at https://www.carersuk.org/for-professionals/policy/policy-library/state-of-caring-2018