Six charities supporting Carers Week are calling on the Government to provide £1.2 billion funding for unpaid carers’ breaks, so that those providing upwards of 50 hours of care are able to take time off for their own health and wellbeing.
The charities are Carers UK, Age UK, Carers Trust, Motor Neurone Disease Association, Oxfam GB and Rethink Mental Illness.
It follows research from Carers UK that found more than a third of unpaid carers for family members or friends feel unable to manage their caring role and 72% of carers have not had any breaks from their caring role during the pandemic.
The research also found that fewer than one in five (14%) unpaid carers are confident that the support they receive with caring will continue following the Covid-19 pandemic, and they have lost on average 25 hours of previous support a month.
Some 72% of carers have not had any breaks from their caring role at all. Of those who got a break, a third (33%) used the time to complete practical tasks or housework, and a quarter (26%) to attend their own medical appointments.
Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: “Carers have sacrificed their physical and mental health caring for loved ones over the course of this pandemic. They are exhausted having cared around the clock, and do not know how they can continue without a break. Many are looking to support services to be able to take that time for themselves but are desperately worried that they will not continue in the future.
“Without the right support, the stress and challenges of the last year could lead to far more carers breaking down. It is essential that the Government ensures that carers can take breaks and that those providing upwards of 50 hours of care each week get a funded break."
Effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on carers
New data from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) found that unpaid carers were more likely than non-carers to state that life events, work, access to health care and treatment, and their health had been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Time spent providing care was likely to be five hours or fewer per week. Most (90%) of those providing more than 50 hours of care per week lived with someone who was sick, disabled or over age of 70 years.
The ONS analysis also found that unpaid carers were more likely to be ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ worried about the effects that the Covid-19 pandemic was having on their life: 63% compared with 56% of non-carers.
Responding to the ONS research, Clare Taylor, National Director of Operations at Turning Point, said: “It comes as no surprise that the pandemic has hit the welfare and wellbeing of unpaid family carers particularly hard. Supporting a loved one can be rewarding; however, people providing care can often end up neglecting their own physical and mental health.
“Over the last year it has become clear carers feel burned out, isolated and overlooked as a result of the closure of services and limited social contact with family and friends in response to social distancing restrictions.
“Turning Point created an online Carers Wellbeing Guide in response to these concerns which has been viewed 740 times since first published last year. Carers shouldn’t feel they are alone.”