Years of Government neglect is pushing unpaid family carers into poverty and leaving many feeling exhausted and fearful of the future, according to the results of a damning new survey from the Carers Trust.
A major new survey by the charity found that the majority of unpaid carers feel they are not getting enough support from the social care system, with only 12% saying the support they receive is adequate to meet their needs.
Almost two thirds of unpaid carers taking part in the survey (64%) said they do not receive enough support. A further 24% responded that they weren’t sure whether they got enough support. Only 12% of respondents agreed that they were getting enough support from the social care system.
The survey also points at Government cuts to local authority funding as one of the main reasons as to why unpaid cares aren’t receiving enough help and support. According to the survey, almost two thirds of unpaid carers (64%) are now spending 50 hours or more per week caring for a family relative.
Carers Trust says this suggests that in just nine years the proportion of unpaid carers providing 50 hours’ care or more per week has almost tripled since the 2011 Census (23%).
The survey was completed by more than two thousand unpaid carers across the UK. It asked participants to describe their worries about the future and how a lack of support and services was affecting them now.
Large numbers of carers consistently described how closure of local services even before the pandemic had increased pressure on them to provide round-the-clock care, leaving them at breaking point.
This, in turn, has left many unpaid carers with no choice but to stop working, or at least to reduce their working hours, leaving many facing severe financial hardship.
When asked what she would like to say to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, one unpaid carer responded: “Would you work 50 plus hours a week for £67.25, with no lunch or tea breaks, with no social life? Then please understand how worthless I feel”
The survey found that the Coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated many of the problems faced by family carers. One in six (16%) reported that lockdowns and closure of local services has forced them into caring for an additional 40 hours or more per week.
It also found that 54% of carers have been forced to give up, or reduce, paid work because of caring responsibilities.
And for those who have had to give up work, or reduce their working hours, there is little support from the government beyond a meagre Carer’s Allowance (£67.25 per week in England), pushing many exhausted carers into real financial hardship.
Responding to the survey findings, Carers Trust CEO Gareth Howells said: “This survey lays bare the human cost of a lack of investment in our social care system and the ever increasing burden being placed on unpaid carers.
“As I read down the responses to questions about how well they are supported, unpaid carers recounted the despair and hurt they feel at having to weigh up a choice that no one in Britain should have to face – between continuing to provide dedicated care for a sick or disabled relative and the inevitable financial hardship this brings in far too many cases.
“Successive governments’ refusal to find a solution to the social care funding issue now means unpaid carers are at breaking point.
Gareth Howells continues: “Coronavirus is no excuse to kick reform of social care funding down the road.
“In fact, it is coronavirus that has brought into sharp, undeniable focus the awful impact of long-term neglect for unpaid carers. So the government must now act on this evidence.
“First, it must urgently raise Carer’s Allowance to a level that lifts carers out of the extreme hardship that so many are undoubtedly facing.
“Secondly, it must come up with a comprehensive plan and invest the billions that are required to deliver a fit for purpose social care system – rather than the present model which does little more than exploit exhausted unpaid family carers to provide social care on the cheap.”
“Money. I currently work but am having to give up work because I can’t afford to care and work anymore – it’s ruining my health. This will leave our finances in a mess, but I don’t have a choice.” Male Carer aged 55-64
“Everything. Death, being able to cope, the crushing loneliness and poverty” Female Carer aged 45-54
A female carer aged 55-64, responding to a question about what support is available, said: “I have no support at all from anyone. I care 24/7 for my autistic adult daughter who left supported living because of abuse and neglect. I have had no help in four months.
“I live alone, am disabled myself and have been left to meet every single one of my daughter’s needs, from accommodation, to mental health (she was suicidal when she first came here) and everything else.
“Her SW [social worker] promised at least outreach support but as yet none has materialised.
“I have finally managed to get her some Talking Therapy but it is a fight for everything and I have no-one supporting me.
“There is almost no possiblity of independent housing for her so no help with accommodation, no local groups or activities for her so all her leisure and social needs have to be met by me, she was very ill when she returned so her physical health has required a huge amount of work and I have had not one seconds help with that from anyone. I’m at breaking point but there’s nothing out there.”
A male aged 45-54, responding to a survey question about what he would say to the Prime Minister about what would make a difference to him as an unpaid carer, said: “Recognise the value of what unpaid carers do for this country and how much we save the government and local authorities.
“Show us a bit of financial appreciation for that, rather than punishing us through the Universal Credit system and it’s savage deductions of “unearned income”. It’s costing me £130 a month out of my benefits to be a home-based carer. How is that fair?”