Findings from a Carers Trust survey, published today, provide alarming evidence of a deep-rooted failure by successive governments to understand and meet the basic support needs of millions of people struggling to provide unpaid care for a family member or friend.
There is a near-total sense among survey respondents of feeling abandoned by government over a long time.
Nearly 9-in-10 (86per cent) of unpaid carers agreed, or strongly agreed, that “successive governments have ignored the needs of unpaid carers for a long time”.
And only 1per cent of respondents (just 12 out of more than 1,500 unpaid carers who completed the survey) felt that politicians understand unpaid carers.
A separate poll of the broader public by research company Opinium, conducted for the Carers Trust, found that adults support the need for unpaid carers to receive more support from the government.
According to the Opinium poll:
- 4-in-5 UK adults (80per cent) agreed that the government needs to do more to support unpaid carers
- more than two-thirds (68per cent) of UK adults agreed that all unpaid carers should receive financial support from the government
- almost half (46per cent) of UK adults did not agree that Carer’s Allowance is a fair level of support for an unpaid carer looking after a family member or friend for a minimum of 35 hours a week
The Carers Trust’s survey results also demonstrated how many unpaid carers are being driven into acute financial hardship because of their caring role, with inadequate financial support from successive governments widely cited by survey respondents in their written responses.
Of those unpaid carers responding to a question on whether they had had to give up paid work because of their caring role, almost half (48per cent) said that they had.
Financial pressures arising from giving up paid work are further exacerbated for many unpaid carers unable to claim Carer’s Allowance. The survey found that, of those responding to a question on whether they were receiving Carer’s Allowance, more than half (51per cent) said they were not.
A common complaint from survey respondents was how family carers of pensionable age stopped receiving Carer’s Allowance because they were receiving pensionable income, even though they were caring for a family member round the clock.
“I did receive Carer’s Allowance until I reached my state pension age, but as they class a pension as a benefit and you cannot get two ‘benefits’, it was taken away,” one respondent to the survey said. “I have an underlying right to it though… Caring gets harder as you get older.”
Many unpaid carers receiving Carer’s Allowance complained that payment of £67.60 a week failed to recognise the number of hours they spent on their caring role. They also felt the payment was not enough, given the complexity of needs many carers have to deal with.
One carer commented that, after adding up all the hours he spent caring for his wife, he was earning just 50p an hour from Carer’s Allowance.
“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,” said Joe Levenson, the Carers Trust’s executive director of policy and external affairs.
“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.”
Levenson said that many carers, and respondents to the survey, “have been brought to breaking point”.
He said, “Paying lip service to supporting carers while looking the other way must stop now. Unpaid carers need ambitious and transformational change and they need it now.”
In response to the survey findings, the Carers Trust is calling on government to develop a new national Strategy for Carers to include improved availability of statutory care and support for people with care and support needs of all ages; improved support for unpaid carers themselves, including regular breaks and respite; and a reform of Carer’s Allowance so that unpaid carers are better protected against financial hardship.
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