carerexhaustedVariation in the support received by people who care for a person with a learning disability is having a damaging effect on their health and ability to look after the person they care for, according to new research.

Research by Carers UK found that of 4,935 carers of an older, disabled or seriously-ill loved one, 65% said one or more of their local services were not carer-friendly as they fail to recognise and support them in their caring role. As a consequence, 61% of carers say this lack of support is having a negative impact on their health.

More specifically, of the 4,935 carers surveyed, more than a quarter (1,126 carers) care for a loved one with a learning disability. Of those: 

Carers rated the pharmacy and GP practice as the most carer-friendly services in their community

Care and support services were ranked the least carer-friendly (23%), followed by the local high street, i.e. street layout, shops, parking, public toilets, cafes, etc (19%)

When asked to think about the impact the service they considered to be the least carer-friendly had on them:  63% said it made it more difficult to look after the person they cared for; 59% said it had a negative impact on their physical and/or mental health and 36% said it had negatively impacted their relationships with friends or family.

Publication of the research coincides with Carers Week 2015, which runs from Monday June 8 to Sunday June 14.

The support provided by the UK’s 6.5 million unpaid carers saves the country £119 billion a year, according to research by Carers UK and University of Leeds (2011) – but this could be at risk if a lack of carer-friendly communities continue to make it hard for carers to look after their partners, relatives or friends, say the 6 charities behind Carers Week 2015.

In light of this, the 6 charities – Carers UK, Age UK, Carers Trust, Independent Age, Macmillan Cancer Support and MS Society – have called on individuals, organisations and services to build more ‘carer-friendly communities’ to improve the lives of local carers. 

Carers Week Manager Diana Walles said:  “It can make a huge difference to the lives of carers when they are supported by their local services and communities; whether it is a GP surgery being more flexible with their appointment times, employers creating and implementing carer-friendly policies, or a local supermarket training their staff to better identify hidden carers and signpost them to information about support services in the local area. 

“Despite this, the variation in the quality of carer-friendly services across the country is putting the health of carers, and their ability to support the people they care for, at risk. This Carers Week, we’re trying to change this reality. We’re calling on individuals and organisations to think about what they can do to improve the lives of carers in their community.”