Two thirds (68%) of carers regularly use their own income or savings to pay for care or support services, research has revealed.
An online survey by Carers UK found that, of the 7,525 respondents (people who are providing care), 39% of carers are struggling to make ends meet and more than half who are receiving carer’s allowance have financial problems.
The report, State of Caring A snapshot of unpaid care in the UK, also found carers who have been caring for 15 years or more and those who care for more than 35 hours a week are more likely to say that they are struggling to make ends meet, with 41% and 43% respectively.
Figures also showed that 21% of carers are, or have been, in debt as a result of caring. Another 8% said they cannot afford utility bills and 4% cannot afford their rent/mortgage payments.
‘This is a classic case of robbing Peter to pay Paul, with carers already providing high levels of support left short-changed as they use money for their retirement trying to cover the care costs of their loved one today,’ said Helen Walker, chief executive of Carers UK. ‘As it stands, providing unpaid care is pushing thousands of families into poverty and is having a lasting impact on their finances and quality of life.’
‘Our current social care system is on the brink,’ Walker continued, ‘families urgently need affordable, high quality care services and carers need access to regular breaks and stronger workplace rights to ensure they can combine work and care if they wish to.’
Responding, Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: ‘This research shows the human consequences that the failure to adequately invest in and reform adult social care in England is having on carers. Many are left to fend for themselves with no support. The intense pressures they and the people they are caring for are facing is unacceptable.
‘At the same time we are staring down the barrel of an ageing population, with more people with complex needs who will increasingly rely on informal carers for support. If we don’t support carers then we risk not only harming those individuals but also the people they are providing vital care for.’
Dickson went on to say the government needs to recognise the urgency of putting right a struggling system which is failing record numbers of the most vulnerable people and their families.
Dickson then echoed the report’s call to the next prime minister, stating that he must commit to a solution as a priority when he arrives in Downing Street, and that starts with alleviating the most intense pressures in what is likely to be an emergency budget this autumn.
‘This must then be followed up by a long-term settlement and comprehensive reform in the next spending review,’ Dickson concluded.