Carers UK warn of unpaid carers desperately worried about winter

By agency reporter
October 26, 2020

Family carers are going without crucial services whilst providing many hours of additional care for loved ones with increasing needs, new research by Carers UK reveals. This is at a critical point in the COVID-19 pandemic when more restrictions are being put in place, and many expect life to become more difficult over the winter months.

Previous research by the charity in April showed the majority of unpaid carers immediately took on more care for their older, disabled or seriously ill relatives through the lockdown. Six months later, four in five carers (81 per cent) report that they are still providing more care than before the lockdown. Nearly two thirds (63 per cent) have expressed worry about how they will continue to manage over winter.

In a survey of nearly 6,000 carers, two in five (40 per cent) said they are providing more care because the needs of the person they look after have increased. Many cited the detrimental impact of the national lockdown on their relatives’ physical and mental health.

A similar proportion of family carers (38 per cent) are providing more care because their local services have been significantly reduced or closed. COVID-19 infection and control restrictions mean most day services are operating at a reduced capacity and some have not opened at all. Three quarters of carers (74 per cent) said they are exhausted and worn out as a result of caring during the pandemic.  Two thirds (64 per cent) told Carers UK they hadn’t been able to take any breaks whatsoever in the last six months.

Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: “The majority of carers have only known worry and exhaustion throughout this pandemic. They continue to provide extraordinary hours of care, without the usual help from family and friends and with limited or no support from local services.

“It’s no surprise that carers’ physical and mental health is suffering, badly. I am deeply concerned that so many carers are on the brink and desperately worried about how they will manage during the next wave of the pandemic. Government must prioritise carers in its plans, carry out an urgent review of breaks’ services and ensure that wider social care services have enough funding to manage over winter. We strongly urge local authorities to use the Infection Control Fund to help reinstate crucial day and support services that carers really need.”

The survey showed that 58 per cent of carers had seen their physical health impacted by caring through the pandemic, while 64 per cent said their mental health has worsened. Helen Walker added: “It is not just about ensuring that carers don’t break down over the winter. Carers deserve a New Deal that recognises everything they are contributing through this pandemic and builds in the support they need over the medium and longer term. The Government’s social care reform must ‘level up’ the lives of unpaid carers too, who have struggled through this crisis.”

Carers UK is also calling on the Government to ensure that those receiving Carer's Allowance – the main benefit for people caring 35 hours or more every week – receive an equivalent payment increase to those receiving Universal Credit, £20 a week, to help cover the extra costs that caring will inevitably incur over the winter months.

The charity wants to see the Government set out plans for a long term, sustainable, solution to funding social care that recognises the enormous contribution of unpaid carers and has specific measures to support them at its heart.

* Read Caring Behind Closed Doors: Six Months On here

* Carers UK https://www.carersuk.org/

[Ekk/6]

 

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