A leading UK charity has condemned an increasing number of Councils who are charging carers for the support they receive.
Charging carers for vital support could push them into financial difficulties and runs the risk of harming their health, says Carers Trust.
The charity warns that carers are being left in “dire straights” from being deterred from accessing the support they need, “but have to continue caring to the detriment of their own health and wellbeing”.
Figures obtained by Carers Trust through the Freedom of Information Act found that 8 out of 132 councils already charge for support services. A further 23 councils were considering implementing charges in the next twelve months.
The costs currently range from between £3 per week to £16.98 per week per carer.
Carers Trust estimates that there are 247,539 unpaid carers living in the eight authorities who are already charging for support services.
Around 5% of carers in England live in authorities where they face potential charges, if they are assessed as needing support from the local authority.
Dr Moira Fraser, Director of Policy and Research for Carers Trust, said:
“The lives of many carers are already very stressful and the prospect of being charged when they ask for some support is simply wrong.
“It would leave many carers in dire straits if they are deterred from accessing the support they need but have to continue caring to the detriment of their own health and wellbeing.
“It’s time we realised that carers need more support, not less, and we urge any councils that are considering charging carers not to take this step.
“Instead, we call on the government to increase the funding given to local councils for social care so that they can provide carers with the best help and support possible.
“We owe it to carers and the people they care for.”
Dr Fraser added: “The number of unpaid carers is set to increase and we need these carers to be supported to continue with their caring role – supporting their friends and family.
“Local and central government therefore need to be making decisions and setting precedents now about the levels of support carers should receive before we find ourselves in a crisis.”
Tom Brake MP, Liberal Democrat MP for Carshalton and Wallington and Shadow Opposition Leader of the House of Commons, added:
“This report from Carers Trust has highlighted a worrying trend which is seeing the support given to unpaid carers turned from being an essential into a luxury service.
“We have to reverse that trend now in the interests of carers, the people that they care for, and the stability of our entire social care system.
“Carers need to be championed and I support Carers Trust in their call on councils not to charge carers for support and in urging the government to plug the widening gap in social care funding.”