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Combination of inadequate support and lack of awareness from communities is damaging life chances of Scotland’s carers

by Fiona Collie 06 June 2016

The life chances of many of the 759,000 people in Scotland who care, unpaid, for a disabled, older or ill family member or friend, are being damaged by inadequate support from local services, according to new research launched today for Carers Week 2016 [1]. 

 

What’s more, when carers face a lack of understanding about their caring role from the overall community [2], the negative impact on their health, wellbeing, relationships and finances is exacerbated.

Three-quarters of carers (73%) with some of the most intensive caring responsibilities say their community does not understand or value their caring role, resulting in high numbers of carers struggling to balance other areas of their lives alongside caring.

One carer said: “As a carer attempting to get understanding, advice, support and emergency care from the ‘community’ – such as GP, public transport, social services, dentist pharmacies and hospitals – it can be very challenging, exhausting and beyond stressful.”

Mixed support from local services means that the majority of carers are facing barriers to maintaining their health, balancing work and care, and balancing education and care [3], which is having a markedly negatively impact on their life chances:

  • 63% of carers have given up work or reduced their hours to care
  • 48% of carers have struggled financially
  • 54% of carers have let a health problem go untreated
  • 49% of carers said their mental health has got worse
  • 28% of carers have let a health problem go untreated

One carer said: “I find my care needs pushed further and further away until they break down completely and become an emergency. Last time this happened, I was in hospital for 10 days.”

The Carers Week research shows that when carers are supported by their community, they face far fewer barriers to having a life outside of their caring role [4]:

  • Carers who are supported by their communities are five times more likely to always be able to maintain a healthy lifestyle
  • Carers who are supported by their communities are four times more likely to always be able to maintain relationships with close friends and family

Simon Hodgson, who leads the Carers Week partnership in Scotland, said:

“Carers have told us that it makes a huge difference to their lives when they are supported by their local services and communities; whether that’s being offered a flexible appointment to see their GP, having flexible working policies from their employers, or their school raising awareness of caring and disability.

“Despite this, the majority of carers told us that their local community was not supportive of their caring role, which in turn is having a significant and negatively impact on their life chances.

“This report comes at an opportune moment with a new Government forming in Scotland. We’re calling on individuals, organisations and governments to think about what they can do to improve the lives of carers in their community.”

The five charities driving Carers Week are calling for adequate funding for social care support to be prioritised by the newly elected Scottish Government.

Carers Week 2016 is made possible by Carers Scotland joining forces with Carers Trust Scotland, Independent Age, Macmillan Cancer Support in Scotland and MS Society Scotland.

-ENDS-

Media contact

Case studies, good practice examples and spokespeople are available on request.

References

[1] Building Carer Friendly Communities, Carers Week [2016]

The Carers Week research report, Building Carer Friendly Communities, is based on responses from 6,149 carers who completed Carers UK’s annual State of Caring survey online between March-April 2016.

The statistics in this press release are based on the responses of the 369 people who are currently caring for a family member or friend in Scotland.

Compared to the carer population as a whole, respondents to this survey were more likely to be female, disabled themselves and caring for a high number of hours every week.

[2] Definition of community

Carers completing the State of Caring 2016 survey were given the following definition of community: “When we say ‘community’, we are firstly talking about the services and amenities in your local area, such as your high street, public transport, social clubs, or place of worship; this also includes your employer, your GP or local hospital. We are also talking about your ‘sense of community’ - how included you feel by local services and people, whether you believe your role as a carer is well understood by them, and whether you think your voice is heard on important issues.”

[3] Building Carer Friendly Communities, Carers Week [2016]

Q. As a carer, are there any barriers to maintaining your health?

A. There are no barriers (13.31%)

Q. If you have been in work whilst caring – either currently or in the past – were/are there any barriers to balancing work and care?

A. There are no barriers (10.99%)

Q. If you have been in education or learning whilst caring – either currently or in the past – were/are there any barriers to balancing study and care?

A. There are no barriers (4.67%)

[4] Building Carer Friendly Communities, Carers Week [2016]

Q. As a carer, are you able to do the following?

    Always Sometimes Rarely Never
   
Maintain a healthy lifestyle (e.g. eating well and exercising regularly) Supported by community 23.33% 47.78% 21.11% 7.78%
NOT supported by community 3.63% 42.34% 37.90% 16.13%
Maintain relationships with close friends and family Supported by community 24.44% 50.00% 22.22% 3.33%
NOT supported by community 5.67% 36.03% 47.77% 10.53%
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