Cuts to health and social care funding are pushing 60% of carers across the UK to breaking point, a leading UK charity has warned.
Research from Carers UK found that six in ten people who care for elderly or disabled relatives, including severely ill and disabled children, are suffering from physical and mental breakdown, with a quarter requiring medical treatment as a result.
Around 46% of UK carers reported that they had fallen ill due to the pressures of caring for loved-ones. One in nine of those carers said they have had to be rushed into hospital, the research shows. Half (50%) said they had suffered a physical injury as a result of a deterioration in their health.
Carers UK say that 63% of family carers have suffered from depression and 79% reported anxiety problems.
The charity warns that £3.5 billion in government cuts to local authority social care funding, and changes to social security benefits, will mean that even more family carers will face crisis in years to come. Carers benefits alone face cuts of up to £1 billion.
“Insufficient support from health and social care services is leaving carers isolated, burnt out and unable to look after their own health”, the report says. Others have been forced to give up work, “when it all becomes too much”, or dip into their own diminished savings to help pay for the care of elderly or disabled relatives.
Carers UK warns that reducing support for carers is “unsustainable” and will ultimately have a negative impact upon public services, such as the NHS, and the UK economy as a whole.
Heléna Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK said:
“For millions of families, caring for older or disabled loves ones means a daily battle with exhaustion, stress and anxiety.
“Carers reported exhaustion, suffering physical injury and collapsing from stress and anxiety as they struggled to care for ageing parents with conditions like dementia, severely disabled children or seriously ill partners.
“A fifth of carers were receiving no practical help at all – leaving them unable to take a break from caring or even get a good night’s sleep.”
Carers UK say that with an ageing population more and more people will find themselves having to carer for older or disabled relatives.
“As our ageing population means a growing number of us will take on caring responsibilities for older or disabled loved ones, our society cannot afford for caring to result in breakdown”, said Heléna Herklots.
She added: “It brings costs to our health services when both carers and the person they care for end up in hospital and to our businesses and economy when carers have to leave work when they cannot get the support they need to combine work and caring.”
Carers UK is urging all political parties to make social care a priority in the next general election and end the cuts to carers benefits. The charity is also demanding that sufficient funding is made available to local authorities to support the army of family carers, who save the UK economy an estimated £87 billion a year. Family carers should also be given the legal right to paid ‘care leave’ away from work, the charity said.
Heléna Herklots said: “This is a challenge all political parties must respond to at the election: how will you act to support our families when we need to care for ageing parents or disabled loved ones?”
Carers UK surveyed 5,200 carers – State of Caring Survey 2014 – asking if they had ever reached ‘breaking point’, what caused it and what support would have prevented it from happening.