carerexhaustedEight out of 10 family carers of a person with learning disabilities are exhausted and at breaking point because they do not get the short breaks they need, a report has found.

The report, Short breaks support is failing family carers, by learning disability charity Mencap, reveals the devastating impact that a lack of short breaks can have on families, including high levels of stress, and having to give up work.

This is despite the Government investing £1.2 billion in short breaks for carers in 2010. However, the money was not ring-fenced and research by Mencap has found that the money has not been spent on short breaks services. In fact, more than half of councils in England have cut spending on short breaks for families.

The report also shows that there has been no real improvement in short breaks services since Mencap launched its Breaking Point campaign in 2003.

Findings from the report also include:
• More than 8 in 10 families of adults with a learning disability did not receive any short breaks in the last year
• 9 in 10 family carers report high levels of stress
• Over half of family carers have given up, or are considering giving up, work
• 8 out of 10 family carers claim that a lack of short breaks has had a negative impact on their family life.

Mencap is urging the Government to ring-fence the money intended for short breaks, so it is actually spent on these services. Mencap is also calling on councils to intervene early, to ensure that no family carer is reaches breaking point due to a lack of short breaks.

“A break of just a few nights a month can be the difference between being able to cope with the responsibility of caring for someone with a learning disability and reaching a crisis,” says Jo Davies, campaigns and policy officer at Mencap and co-author of the report.

“Despite this, local councils are steadily reducing their spending on short breaks services for families of people with a learning disability, and a third have stopped provision of short breaks in the last three years.”

To read the full report click here.