Caring unpaid for a family member or friend who is older or disabled can have stark financial implications for carers over time, research published by Carers UK today reveals.
The study shows that just two in five (44%) of those caring for more than 15 years could afford their bills without struggling financially, compared with three in five (62%) of carers in their first year.
Double the proportion of people caring for over 15 years have been in debt compared with those in their first year.
The number of carers in debt because of caring increases from 12% of people caring for a year or less to 19% of those caring between five and nine years. The proportion rises steeply to 25% of those who have been caring for over 15 years.
The new research reveals how the financial hardship experienced by many carers is intensified over time with their financial resilience diminishing the longer their caring role continues.
Carers looking after someone for more than ten years are having to make tougher financial decisions about cutting back on spending, borrowing money or using savings to manage.
Of carers struggling financially, 42% of people caring for between 1 and 4 years are cutting back on essentials such as food and heating, rising to 50% of those who have been caring for over 15 years.
Emily Holzhausen OBE, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Carers UK said: “We know that caring unpaid for a loved one has significant financial implications for many people, with two million giving up work to care and Carer’s Allowance the lowest benefit of its kind.
“Our research shows that financial hardship worsens for carers the longer they’re caring and underlines the real need for them to have the right support and information about their rights early on, so they can best support themselves in the long-run. Carers who wish to continue or return to work should have the support to do so.
“It’s easy to miss out on the financial support available and we are urging local health and care authorities and employers to maximise early help for carers by making policies and rights to financial support clear and accessible.
“Carers can also make the most of our Thinking Ahead tool which helps prepare for the potential costs involved in caring for a loved one to help plan ahead.”
The research comes on Carers Rights Day (30th November 2018), as Carers UK reaches out to the 6.5 million carers in the UK to provide them with crucial information about the rights, financial support, and practical help they are entitled to.
This year, under the theme of ‘Caring for Your Future’, Carers UK is sharing information and advice to support carers to prepare for the future. To support people with thinking about how to prepare for the changing impact of caring, Carers UK is launching a new planning tool, Thinking Ahead.