A survey of more than 1,550 unpaid carers in the UK provides alarming evidence of a “deep-rooted failure” by successive governments to understand and support unpaid carers, according to Carers Trust.

The survey findings, which are published in the Pushed to the Edge report, found that roughly nine in 10 (91%) unpaid family carers feel ignored by the Government, with a similar number (84%) saying they do not have confidence in the government’s ability to improve their lives.

The results reveal a near total sense of abandonment from the government among respondents, with 86% saying they believe ‘successive governments have ignored the needs of unpaid carers for a long time and just 1% (12 out of 1,550 people) saying they felt politicians understand unpaid carers.

Unpaid carers are being driven into acute financial hardship

The results also reveal how many unpaid carers are being driven into acute financial hardship because of their caring role, with around half (49%) saying they have been forced to rely on personal savings due to inadequate financial support from the government.

Financial strain is often due to the carer having to give up their job to care for their family member or friend and then being unable to claim Carer’s Allowance, with more than half 

Of the survey’s respondents, more than half (51%) said they were not receiving Care’s Allowance. This was often because they were receiving pensionable income, even though they were caring for a family member round the clock.

Among those who do receive Carer’s Allowance, many complained the payment of £67.60 a week was not enough and did not recognise the number of hours they spent on their caring role.

This has a clear impact on the wellbeing of the carer, as one respondent explains: “The lack of financial support puts a ridiculous amount of stress on the family, when life is stressful enough as it is. We may end up having to sell our family home.”

A national strategy for unpaid carers

Carers Trust are now calling on the government to develop a new UK Government strategy for carers, which includes:

  • Improved availability of statutory care and support for people with care and support needs of all ages, so that unpaid carers’ caring roles are sustainable;
  • Improved support for unpaid carers themselves, including regular breaks and respite so unpaid carers can live a meaningful life alongside caring;
  • A reform of Carer’s Allowance so that unpaid carers are better protected against financial hardship.

Responding to the survey findings, Carers Trust’s Executive Director of Policy and External Affairs, Joe Levenson, said that while the charity welcomes the government’s recognition of the importance of unpaid carers in the recent adult social care white paper, “unpaid carers need ambitious and transformational change and they need it now.”

“The Government should let carers know they have been heard straight away by introducing a national strategy for unpaid carers, to ensure their needs are a priority across government. And they should act on what unpaid carers have told us, putting them at the heart of this strategy so it’s able to deliver the transformational change that’s desperately needed – such as boosting Carer’s Allowance and making it easier to claim and funding regular breaks and respite for carers.

“Day in day out millions of unpaid carers play a crucial role, caring for family and friends and propping up our creaking social care system. But it’s clear from our survey that this is at great personal cost, and that unpaid carers are struggling to cope and feel marginalised and ignored by government,” he said.