Unpaid carers ‘pushed to the brink’ by soaring living costs

“We are seeing unprecedented levels of stress and financial worries piled on unpaid carers."

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According to the latest Carers Scotland data, more than half (52 percent) of unpaid carers are now unable to handle their monthly costs.

These findings from 249 Scottish caregivers were part of a UK-wide study of 3,300 unpaid caregivers conducted by Carers UK and Carers Scotland.

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Caregivers’ energy prices have already increased by 92 percent, and more than half (59 percent) are concerned that future rises in energy bills and other living costs may harm their own or the person they care for’s physical and emotional health.

Many indicated they were already having to take difficult steps to control their monthly expenditures, with 66 percent cutting back on heating and 17 percent falling behind on their energy payments.

In the next months, 87 percent expect to be unable to heat their house to a safe level, and 41 percent anticipate having to utilise a foodbank.

Unpaid caregivers may face additional expenditures related with the need to keep individuals they care for safe, as well as provide extra care, nourishment, and support.

Higher energy expenditures are usual while caring for someone who is ill or fragile in order to keep them warm and help manage their condition.

Special equipment may be required, which can be expensive to maintain, and they may have higher food expenses due to nutritional requirements. Transport costs may also be greater if the person being cared for is unable to walk or has to be accompanied to several medical appointments.

“Our son relies on life saving equipment which must be constant and available at all times- i.e., a hospital pressure mattress, an oxygen nebulizer, suction hoist, air conditioning, heating and so on.”

Caregiver
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Researchers discovered that nearly two-thirds of caregivers used their own money to pay for care or support services or items for the person they care for. 38 percent are spending more on personal protective equipment (PPE), 33 percent are spending more on incontinence pads, and 18 percent are spending more on adaptations or medical gadgets.

Nearly one-fifth (59%) of those polled are concerned that additional rises in energy bills would cause substantial financial difficulty, and nearly all (85%) are concerned or extremely concerned about how they will manage spending if costs continue to rise.

According to the organisation, caregivers are more likely to be in financial difficulty and less able to cover these additional expenditures.

Carers Scotland, in collaboration with Carers UK, is urging the UK Government to quickly expand the Warm Home Discount scheme to include carers.

Carers Scotland is also urging the Scottish Government to collaborate with the UK Government to raise Carer’s Allowance and other benefits in accordance with current inflation forecasts for April 2022.

In addition, the Scottish Government should:

  • Attempt to raise devolved benefits in accordance with current inflation forecasts.
  • In 2022, the Carer’s Allowance Supplement payment should be doubled, as it was in 2020 and 2021.
  • Increase eligibility for unpaid caregivers and ringfence hardship payments through the Scottish Welfare Fund.
  • create additional financial assistance for homes with disabled individuals and caregivers to cover the higher energy expenditures than the general population
  • Reduce care charging as soon as possible by mandating all councils to include heating and supplementary living costs for disabled and elderly individuals in disability-related spending.

Richard Meade, Director of Carers Scotland, said: “We are seeing unprecedented levels of stress and financial worries piled on unpaid carers.

“Many were already struggling to manage their monthly expenses before the soaring energy prices and inflation increasing the price of essentials.

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“Now more than half of carers are currently unable to manage their monthly expenses and the majority (85%) think they will not be able to manage if costs keep increasing.

“Many are using what savings they have, credit cards, being pushed into debt and cutting back on essentials to keep the person they care for warm and healthy. They are extremely anxious about how they are going to continue to manage.

“More than half of carers think the rising energy costs will impact on their health and the health of the person they care for, storing up problems for the future.

“Carers are propping up our health and care system at a huge cost to their own personal health, finances and ability to stay in work.

“Now the picture is even bleaker, with increasing costs forcing them to cut back on food, on heat, and more than ever are worried that they will be pushed into unsustainable debt.

“There is an urgent need for targeted support for unpaid carers now. Thousands more are being pushed into poverty, and many cares already in poverty will struggle and face even greater financial hardship. That will have a lasting impact on their finances and quality of life.”

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