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Carers matter

Three in five of us will be carers at some point in our lives. It is a role that can creep up gradually and for some it can be a lifelong role. For others it can come unexpectedly and suddenly following a crisis. Carers contribute enormously not only to the individuals and families they support, but also to the health and social care system. If carers were to stop caring, it would cost councils and the NHS £132 billion per year to provide replacement care and support. [i]

Caring can have a huge impact on all aspects of a carer’s life and wellbeing, and it is important that carers receive information and support in their caring role. Supporting carers is in everyone’s interest.

Who are carers?

“Anyone can become a carer. Carers come from all walks of life, all cultures and can be of any age. Many feel they are doing what anyone else would in the same situation – looking after their mother, son or best friend, and just getting on with it.”[ii]

Carers, sometimes called family carers, are relatives, friends or neighbours who look after someone who cannot manage at home without them. This could be caring for a relative (a parent, grandparent, sibling, child or other relative) or a spouse, partner or friend who is ill, frail, disabled or who has mental health or substance misuse problems. Carers do not necessarily live with the person they are looking after.

Young carers

Carers can be of any age, including young carers.  A young carer is “…a person under 18 who provides or intends to provide care for another person (of any age) … This  relates  to  care  for  any  family member  who  is  physically  or  mentally  ill,  frail  elderly,  disabled  or  misuses  alcohol  or substances.” [iii]

A young carer becomes vulnerable when:

“… the level of care-giving and responsibility to the person in need of care becomes excessive or inappropriate for that child, risking impacting on his or her emotional or physical well-being or educational achievement and life chances.” [iv]

Parent carers

Parent carers are adult members of families with children with additional needs.

Facts about carers

6.5 million people in the UK are carers and this number continues to rise. [v]  Every year over 2.1 million adults become carers and almost as many people find that their caring responsibilities come to an end.  Women have a 50% chance of providing care by the time they are 59, men by the time they are 75.  Some carers remain unidentified or ‘hidden’, are reluctant to, or find it hard to access support because:  They don’t recognise themselves as carers and don’t seek support, which can affect their ability to continue caring They face particular disadvantage and stigma, due to the circumstances of the person they care for, or their cultural background. For example, carers of people with mental ill health or substance misuse can find it hard to access support Identifying children and young people with caring responsibilities is challenging and therefore young carers in particular can remain ‘hidden’. They may not have the confidence or self-awareness to relay the extent or impact of the care they provide Professionals may not receive the necessary training to enable them to identify young carers Parents and carers of young carers may be deterred from seeking statutory support if they think this may deem their child ‘at risk’; fear of the impact can be a barrier for families in need of support

The impact of caring

Caring can affect people’s health and wellbeing in a number of ways:

  • Juggling work and care –  over three million people juggle care with work, however the demands of caring mean that 1 in 5 carers are forced to give up work altogether. [vi]
  • Risks to educational attainment, life chances and opportunities for young carers. These impacts can carry into young adulthood, with impacts on physical and mental health and employment and training opportunities
  • Financially carers can face a steep drop in income if they have to leave work or reduce their hours to care, sometimes a double loss of salary if they are caring for a partner who also has to give up work as a result of their illness or disability. [vii]
  • 82% of carers report that caring has had a negative impact on their health. By putting the person they care for first, carers can put their own needs last, struggling to find time to exercise, eat healthy meals, see friends and family or see their GP.  Carers’ mental wellbeing is at risk, with carers vulnerable to stress, loneliness and isolation. [viii]  Carers who care for 50 hours or more per week are at increased risk of ill health.

References

[i] Carers UK facts and figures https://www.carersuk.org/news-and-campaigns/press-releases/facts-and-figures

[ii] Carers’ Trust

[iii] Section 96 of the Children and Families Act 2014

[iv] Carers’ Trust

[v] Facts about carers, Care UK 2014

[vi] Carers UK 2011

[vii] State of Caring Report 2015, Carers UK

[viii] State of Caring Report 2015, Carers UK