photo credit: MTSOfan via photopin cc

A leading charity has warned that a “perfect storm of squeezed public services and financial pressures is pushing carers to the brink”, despite the introduction of new laws designed to better support millions of unpaid carers.

Carers UK is calling on the UK Government to “redouble their efforts to support England’s 5.4 million unpaid carers”, as research by the charity warns that many are “struggling” to gain access to the vital support they desperately need.

The charity’s ‘State of Caring’ report reveals how millions of unpaid carers are finding it increasingly more difficult to maintain their own health, balance work and caring duties, and have a social life outside of caring.

Despite the introduction of the Care Act 2014, designed to improve the support available to carers, more than half (54%) believe their quality of life will worsen, compared to 50% before the new legislation was introduced.

The Carers Act 2014 includes new laws to grant entitlement to carers of an assessment to help determine the level of support they need. But one in three carers say they’ve been made to wait more than six months for an assessment.

Shockingly, 39% of those who care for someone nearing the end of life have been forced to wait six months or longer for an urgent assessment.

Almost a quarter (22%) had to request an assessment from local authorities for themselves, despite the law stating that one should be offered.

Research from Carers UK also shows that 48% of full-time carers, those who provide 35 hours or more of unpaid care to loved-ones, are “struggling to make ends meet”, while 49% have been forced to give up their jobs. Almost a quarter (23%) have reduced their working hours to continue caring.

Carers who provide 50 hours or more of support are twice as likely to suffer with poor health, say Carers UK, yet one in five (20%) are receiving no support whatsoever.

The charity’s report warns that cuts to social security and public services are having a devastating effect on carers and their families. 34% of carers report a change in the amount of care and support they receive.

59% said their support had been slashed due to cost or availability, including 13% who say a support service has been closed down without being replaced.

Other findings include:

  • 2 in 3 (68%) felt their need to have regular breaks from caring was either not considered or not thoroughly considered
  • Only 1 in 3 (35%) felt that support to look after their own health was thoroughly considered
  • 3 in 4 working age carers (74%) did not feel that the support needed to juggle care with work was sufficiently considered
  • 1 in 5 (21%) said they received little or no helpful information or advice, and felt they didn’t know where to go for support with caring

Heléna Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: “The Care Act is a powerful piece of legislation, for the very first time giving carers the same right to support as the person they look after.

“But one year on from the Care Act coming into force and carers’ lives have not improved – in fact, compared with last year, more carers believe their quality of life will get worse in the next year.

“If the Care Act is to deliver on its promise to improve support for carers, the Government must set-out a clear expectation of when carer’s assessments should be carried out, alongside investment in the care and support services that are desperately needed to backup families.

She added: Caring is not an issue that we, as a society, can afford to ignore. After all, caring will touch each and every one of our lives – whether we provide care for a loved one or need care ourselves.

“With this in mind, the Government’s new Carers’ Strategy, which is currently being developed, is a vital opportunity to ensure caring, and the issues that matter most to carers, are at the heart of policies, programmes and legislation across Government.”