Calls for unpaid carers to receive support

Informal carers working long hours are ‘jeopardising’ their health, with some not being properly assessed for support, the Local Government Association (LGA) and Carers UK have warned.

They said strain is being put on 5.7 million unpaid carers in England due to rising service costs and demand risks tipping the social care system into collapse, with many working ‘well over’ 50 hours a week without having proper breaks or support assessments.

Research by Carers UK found a fifth (20%) of 7,000 carers have not had an assessment in the past year and that people are caring for a relative for ‘much longer periods’.

The LGA is calling for the assessments of informal carers to be included in the Government’s delayed social care green paper, which is due to be published in the autumn.

The cost of providing assessments would be £150m, but this would be more cost-effective than the Government paying for emergency hospital care and long-term social care costs, according to the LGA, which launched its own green paper on adult social care in July.

In June, the Government announced a two-year scheme to help establish flexible working for informal and ‘hidden’ carers. It also set up a £500,000 care innovation fund to encourage technology initiatives supporting them.

However, councillor Ian Hudspeth, the LGA’s community wellbeing board chairman, said: ‘We cannot duck this issue as a society any longer. Our green paper is the start of a nationwide public debate about the future of care for all adults, including unpaid carers, and how best to support their wellbeing and rescue the services caring for older and disabled people from collapse.’

Emily Holzhause, Carers UK director of policy, added: ‘We urgently need clarification of short term funding for social care and to provide breaks for carers before the situation worsens. And we need a long-term funding settlement to secure the future of breaks for carers,’ she added.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘Carers make an invaluable contribution to society by selflessly caring for their loved ones, but this must not be at the expense of their own health and happiness.

‘We are already looking at how to improve carers’ access to breaks and respite care and our forthcoming green paper will look at long-term sustainable solutions for the social care system.’