Learning disability charity Mencap has launched a campaign to highlight the issue of the strain many family carers feel under due to the lack of short break services.
Earlier this year, a Mencap report found that 8 in 10 family carers have reached, or are close to reaching, breaking point due to lack of short breaks – also known as respite. Families say they reach breaking point as the result of providing constant care to a loved one without a break.
More than 7 out of 10 carers provide more than 15 hours of unpaid care each day. The alternative is state-funded care, which would cost the government £119 billion each year.
To challenge this, the charity has launched its Breaking Point appeal to raise awareness of the issue and to help put pressure on councils to keep these services running.
Mencap report that 4 out of 10 family carers have experienced cuts to their short breaks and the same number feel their short breaks services have got worse in the past 3 years. Short breaks services are delivered by local councils and give carers and people with a learning disability a break to recharge. The charity’s campaign aims to: ensure that no family carer is left to reach breaking point; that every family that needs a short break receives one; and that no more short breaks services cut.
Exhausted and depressed
Gail, a parent carer, explained the effect a lack of short breaks had on her life. “The lack of sleep was the worst thing. From the age of 2 years old, my son didn’t sleep for more than 2 or 3 hours a night. I was exhausted, depressed and bad tempered, which was impacting on the way I parented my other kids, and my relationship with their dad.”
Jo Davies, campaigns lead at Mencap, added. “Family carers of people with a learning disability do a fantastic job, many caring for their loved one for more than 15 hours a day, 7 days a week. This is a huge contribution, not just to their family but to the whole of society, and their contribution is not fully recognised or rewarded. Instead, their lives are made harder with cuts to the services which should be there to give them a break and enable them to keep on caring.”
Clare Lucas, Mencap's activism lead, said: "now is a crucial time to keep this issue in the spotlight and to keep the pressure on local councils as they start to make decisions about what services they will cut next year. Please help us stop this by telling your council not to cut short breaks in your local area.
“Together we can make sure that every family gets the support they need, and no-one is left to reach breaking point.”
Learning Disability Today produced a feature earlier in the year on the issues facing family carers in regard to short breaks. To read this, click here.