Reduced services see unpaid carers pushed to the limit - and desperately worried about winter
20 October 2020
Family carers are going without crucial services, whilst providing many hours of additional care for loved ones with increasing needs, new research by Carers UK reveals.
This is at a critical point in the Covid-19 pandemic when more restrictions are being put in place, and many expect life to become more difficult over the winter months.
Previous research by the charity in April showed the majority of unpaid carers immediately took on more care for their older, disabled or seriously ill relatives through the lockdown.
Six months later, four in five carers (81%) report that they are still providing more care than before the lockdown.
Nearly two thirds (63%) have expressed worry about how they will continue to manage over winter.
In a survey of nearly 6,000 carers, two in five (40%) said they are providing more care because the needs of the person they look after have increased. Many cited the detrimental impact of the national lockdown on their relatives’ physical and mental health.
A similar proportion of family carers (38%) are providing more care because their local services have been significantly reduced or closed. Covid-19 infection and control restrictions mean most day services are operating at a reduced capacity and some have not opened at all.
Three quarters of carers (74%) said they are exhausted and worn out as a result of caring during the pandemic. Two thirds (64%) told Carers UK they hadn’t been able to take any breaks whatsoever in the last six months.
Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: “The majority of carers have only known worry and exhaustion throughout this pandemic. They continue to provide extraordinary hours of care, without the usual help from family and friends and with limited or no support from local services.
“It’s no surprise that carers’ physical and mental health is suffering, badly. I am deeply concerned that so many carers are on the brink and desperately worried about how they will manage during the next wave of the pandemic. Government must prioritise carers in its plans, carry out an urgent review of breaks’ services and ensure that wider social care services have enough funding to manage over winter. We strongly urge local authorities to use the Infection Control Fund to help reinstate crucial day and support services that carers really need.”
The survey showed that 58% of carers had seen their physical health impacted by caring through the pandemic, while 64% said their mental health has worsened.
Helen Walker added: “It is not just about ensuring that carers don’t break down over the winter. Carers deserve a New Deal that recognises everything they are contributing through this pandemic and builds in the support they need over the medium and longer term. The Government’s social care reform must ‘level up’ the lives of unpaid carers too, who have struggled through this crisis.”
Carers UK is also calling on the Government to ensure that those receiving Carer's Allowance – the main benefit for people caring 35 hours or more every week - receive an equivalent payment increase to those receiving Universal Credit, £20 a week, to help cover the extra costs that caring will inevitably incur over the winter months.
The charity wants to see the Government set out plans for a long term, sustainable, solution to funding social care that recognises the enormous contribution of unpaid carers and has specific measures to support them at its heart.
Read the report in full: Caring Behind Closed Doors
Carers Week: 4.5 million become unpaid carers in a matter of weeks
08 June 2020
New figures released for Carers Week (8th – 14th June 2020) show an estimated 4.5 million people in the UK have become unpaid carers as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
This is on top of the 9.1 million unpaid carers who were already caring before the outbreak, bringing the total to 13.6 million.
2.7 million women (59%) and 1.8 million men (41%) have started caring for relatives who are older, disabled or living with a physical or mental illness.
Typically, they will have been supporting loved ones from afar, helping with food shopping, collecting medicine, managing finances and providing reassurance and emotional support during the pandemic.
Some will have taken on intense caring roles, helping with tasks such as personal care, moving around the home, administering medication and preparing meals.
2.8 million people (62%) who have started caring since the outbreak are also juggling paid work alongside their caring responsibilities, highlighting the need for working carers to be supported as they return to offices and work sites.
The six charities supporting Carers Week - Carers UK, Age UK, Carers Trust, Motor Neurone Disease Association, Oxfam GB and Rethink Mental Illness – are calling on the UK Government to recognise and raise awareness of the role unpaid carers are playing during the pandemic and ensure they are supported through it, and beyond.
Both unpaid carers (71%) and adults without caring responsibilities (70%) said managing the stress and responsibility of being an unpaid carer was/ would be the top challenge when caring. Families are under a huge amount of pressure managing their caring roles and are worried about how they will cope in the weeks and months ahead.
On behalf of the charities supporting Carers Week, Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said:
“Recognising the contribution of unpaid carers to our society and properly supporting them has never been more important than during this pandemic. An additional 4.5 million people are caring for sick, older or disabled loved ones – that’s the NHS workforce three times over. It demonstrates the scale of the care being provided behind closed doors, mostly hidden from view.
“Unpaid carers are the pillars of our health and social care systems. Yet many say they feel invisible and ignored. There are thousands caring round the clock without the practical support they would normally rely on to take a break, while others face increased costs accessing food and care products.
“The Government must not take unpaid carers for granted in this crisis. It must ensure their physical and mental health is looked after and it is imperative that, moving out of the pandemic, the Government rebuilds our care system so that carers are supported and families have the services they need to live better lives.”
Polling of more than 4,000 members of the UK general public over 18 shows unpaid carers have become more visible within society since the pandemic began. There is a majority consensus for unpaid carers to receive more support from the Government than they do currently.
The six Carers Week charities are calling on Government to urgently deliver a plan for social care reform and set out long term investment in care and support services. This would give unpaid carers the opportunity to take breaks from their caring role, and stay in paid work if they want to. The charities want to see an urgent rise in Carer's Allowance – currently just £67.25 a week - and a one-off coronavirus supplement, in recognition of the vital role unpaid carers have played in the pandemic and the significant costs associated with caring.
Research: The forgotten families in lockdown: unpaid carers close to burnout during Covid-19 crisis
23 April 2020
A staggering 70% of unpaid carers in the UK are having to provide more care for their loved ones during the coronavirus outbreak.
A third (35%) of them are providing more care because their local care and support services have been reduced or closed.
A survey by the national charity Carers UK of nearly 5,000 unpaid carers showed that, on average, carers are picking up an additional 10 hours of unpaid care per week, helping loved ones with personal care, practical tasks and emotional support.
Reduced care and support services, and paid care workers isolating or without personal protective equipment (PPE), mean many carers have no choice but to care round the clock for loved ones with complex health conditions and disabilities - without any hope of a break.
More than half (55%) of unpaid carers told the charity they feel overwhelmed managing their caring responsibilities during the outbreak and are worried about burning out in the coming weeks.
87% of carers said they are worried about what will happen to the people they care for if they have to self-isolate or become ill.
Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said:
“Unpaid carers are fighting the same battle as care staff and many of our NHS workers: yet they do it behind closed doors and with far less recognition.
“Unlike our fantastic frontline workers they are unable to clock off from their caring responsibilities. Many are overwhelmed and incredibly anxious about how they will manage in the weeks ahead.
“Unpaid carers are just as vital in the national effort to keep vulnerable people safe yet many fear that continuing to care around the clock will lead to them burning out.
“Carers tell us they feel ignored and invisible in this epidemic. The Government must ensure their physical and emotional well-being is supported at this challenging time and monitor the impact of the reduction in care services on carers.”
Before coronavirus, social care services were already in short supply and those families with support met a high threshold to get any form of care. Now, some of those services have disappeared and unpaid carers are having to cope alone.
Carers UK is calling on Government to acknowledge the huge efforts of unpaid carers protecting vulnerable people during this epidemic. Carers desperately want paid care staff to have better access to testing and personal protective equipment, as well as wanting access themselves, so they can keep the people they care for safe.
The new research shows 81% of carers are having to spend more money during the outbreak. The top increases in expenditure include spending more on food (72%) – due to lack of supermarket delivery slots and need for specialist food - and household bills (50%). 1 in 10 are spending more on equipment for the person they care for.
The charity is urging Government to increase Carer’s Allowance – the main benefit for people caring unpaid for 35 hours or more each week, just £67.25 a week - to recognise the crucial role they are playing in the country’s fight back against coronavirus.
Read Carers UK’s report, Caring behind closed doors: forgotten families in the coronavirus outbreak.
17 March 2020
Face-to-face assessments for all sickness and disability benefits will be suspended for the next three months, the government has announced. The change also covers health checks for Universal Credit.
The temporary move, effective on Tuesday 17 March 2020, is being taken as a precautionary measure to protect vulnerable people from unnecessary risk of exposure to coronavirus as the country’s response ramps up in the ‘delay’ phase.
The Department of Works and Pensions (DWP) will ensure those who are entitled to a benefit continue to receive support, and that new claimants are able to access the safety net.It affects claimants of Personal Independence Payment (PIP), those on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and some on Universal Credit, and recipients of Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.
The suspension of face-to-face assessments also covers new claims to those benefits.
Work and Pensions Secretary Thérèse Coffey said: “As we move into the next phase of our response to coronavirus, it is right we take steps to protect those with health problems.
“Temporarily suspending face-to-face assessments for sickness and disability benefits will allow us to ensure we continue to provide a safety net for those in need, while removing unnecessary risk of exposure to this disease.”
Anyone who has a face-to-face assessment appointment scheduled from Tuesday 17 March onwards does not need to attend and will be contacted to discuss next steps and alternative arrangements, which could involve either telephone or paper-based assessments. It is expected this measure will be in effect for the next three months but we will be regularly reviewing the position in line with Public Health advice.
No further action is required by any claimant as a result of this change. They will be contacted with advice on next steps.
DWP continues to accept new claims for all benefits. Anyone already receiving PIP, ESA, Universal Credit or Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit, will continue to receive their current payments as normal while alternative arrangements are put in place to review or reassess their claim.
A quarter of unpaid carers living in poverty
7 February 2020
As many as a quarter of unpaid carers in the UK are living in poverty, especially working age women, according to the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
It has published UK Poverty 2019/20, its annual report on the nature and scale of poverty across the UK and how it affects people who are caught in its grip.
Commenting on the report, Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK said: “As a first urgent step, the Government needs to “right a wrong” and raise Carer’s Allowance, which is the lowest benefit of its kind at only £66.15 per week.
“Carers should be supported to work if they’re able and want to. The Government has promised to introduce unpaid care leave and we welcome this important step forward, but we would prefer to see this paid so that carers can take the leave regardless of their financial situation.
“It is crucial that the Prime Minister delivers on his promise of social care reform, soon. We hope to see ambitious plans coupled with sustainable, long term investment so that UK families can enjoy much better health, finances and quality of life than they do currently.”
Findings also show poverty is especially high among families where there is an adult who is disabled, at nearly 33%. If there is also a disabled child, the poverty rate is 40 – more than twice the rate where there is no disability.
Mandatory training for NHS staff on understanding learning disability and autism
5 November 2019
The government has confirmed that every NHS and social care worker will receive mandatory training relevant to their role.
The new training is backed by £1.4 million of government funding and will focus on:
As part of this, the government will run a series of trials next year to inform a wider roll-out of the training, which aims to improve quality of care and life expectancy.
Work is already underway to deliver the training and testing will take place in a variety of health and social care settings to help shape how it will be rolled out and delivered in future.
The specially designed training will be named in memory of Oliver McGowan, in recognition of his family’s tireless campaigning for better training for staff. It will draw on case studies to demonstrate why it is so important.
The announcement follows a consultation process that listened to the views of over 5,000 people, including charities, patient groups, professional bodies and the public. The responses overwhelmingly backed the principle of mandatory training.
'Everyone working together needed to tackle loneliness in Reading'
22 October 2019
A new report on tackling loneliness in Reading calls for a change of culture across the town, including neighbours and communities working together to look out for people at risk of isolation.
The report, Tackling Loneliness and Social Isolation in Reading, England which was presented to Reading Borough Council presents a picture of loneliness and social isolation in the area brought about in part by cuts to public sector services.
Tackling Loneliness saw 21 voluntary, community organisations and statutory agencies – including Reading Mencap - take part to provide their views on the issue. In addition focus groups were held with 65 members of the community including service users, volunteers and groups of people at risk or experiencing loneliness from diverse backgrounds.
The report highlights best practice in Reading, particularly focusing on how loneliness may stem from other concerns including mental health, addiction and homelessness.
It then makes recommendations for action including:
Dr Ruth Evans, an Associate Professor in Human Geography at the University of Reading said: “This research provided an opportunity for many people in diverse circumstances to give their views and experiences of the important issue of loneliness.
“Service-users and their supporters have told us that cuts to public services mean that specialist support, social and leisure activities that help to reduce isolation and loneliness are under threat and people may not able to access crucial help.
“The report is a starting point for addressing the complicated issue of loneliness in our town. We have highlighted best practice from various voluntary and community services and statutory bodies and I am grateful to all those who have supported the research.
“The reality is that tackling loneliness requires everyone working together. The public sector, voluntary and community sector, communities and individuals all have a part to play in looking out and caring for everyone in our community.”
Cllr Graeme Hoskin, Reading’s Lead Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: “Loneliness can affect any of us and the work on this report is a good opportunity to highlight the importance of tackling social isolation. Feeling connected is good for us – for our mental and our physical wellbeing. By working together I’m sure that we can make Reading a town where people feel connected in our community.”