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Counting the Cost of Caring: Cash-strapped carers ‘sick with worry’ about finances

02 December 2011

Carers are facing bleak choices as they struggle to care for their sick and disabled relatives, with nearly half of those surveyed saying money worries were affecting their health.

A survey of over 4,000 carers by Carers UK for Carers Rights Day today has found that almost 47% were being made ill by money worries.

The financial toll of caring was stark, with almost half (45%) of carers cutting back on essentials like food and heating to make ends meet; and nearly a third (31%) of carers were living on their overdraft.

The survey, which took place between September 2010 and July 2011, also found a very high percentage had cut back on holidays (78 per cent) leisure activities (74 per cent), buying clothes (70 per cent) and going out with friends and family (74 per cent).

Carers struggle to work and care, and an estimated one million have given up work or reduced their hours, losing an average of £11,000 a year. 

Debt looms for carers and over 4 in 10 surveyed (45 per cent) said caring had pushed them into the red. On top of lost earnings, illness and disability also bring increased costs, higher household bills, for specialist equipment, foods, medicines, additional care and extra transport. 

Money worries cause stress, and almost half of the carers who responded to the survey (47 per cent) said they were suffering from anxiety and depression because of concern about finances.

The isolation and stress of caring can cause mental health problems but debt exacerbates this. Of the 4,250 carers surveyed, 76 per cent said they had suffered mental health problems, and that figure rose to 85 per cent when the carers had been in debt.

“These figures make shocking reading,” said Emily Holzhausen, Director of Policy for Carers UK. “There are an estimated 6.4 million people in the UK providing unpaid care and they are saving UK economy £119bn every year – that is more than the social care services and private providers combined. It is a scandal that, despite this contribution, carers end up sick with worry about how to make ends meet."

“We are calling on everyone in society to help carers access support. Many carers are not given the advice and information they need – so if you know someone who cares for an ill or disabled loved one, make sure they get advice. But we need radical reform of carers’ benefits to stop families who care falling into poverty."

“Because the system is so complex, many people struggle to access the benefits they need. Getting people the right advice can be time-consuming, that is why we hold Carers Rights Day to let people know about all the support that is available.”

More than 700 local groups, including GPs surgeries, disability and community groups are running events. This year, Sainsbury’s have sponsored an essential guide to caring which is available free to carers from Carers UK:

 

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