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Carers at Breaking Point

08 June 2009

Over three-quarters (76%) of people in Wales who provide unpaid care for a loved one who is ill, frail or disabled have reached breaking point due to the pressures of their caring role, according to new research issued to launch Carers Week 2009 (8-14 June).


The results show that the strain of caring is causing carers such extreme levels of stress and depression that they are suffering breakdowns and, in some cases, even attempting suicide.

Mr and Mrs Telfer from Torfaen have cared for their son Christopher, 21 who has severe autism, epilepsy and severe challenging behaviour. Due to transitional failure they have had three complaints upheld by the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales against Gwent Healthcare NHS Trust, The Local Health Board and Social Services. A previous complaint regarding inconsistent respite support was also upheld by the Public Services Ombudsman.

The lack of support from all concerned during these periods have had a significant impact on Mr and Mrs Telfer's health and wellbeing. Mr Telfer said: "Having to constantly battle with health and social services to get services in place for our son has been horrendous. It has been a long arduous and extremely emotional journey that has distressed us, causes us depression, stress and anxiety and has left us physically and mentally drained".

The most common cause of carers reaching breaking point, cited by over a third (39%) of respondents, is 'frustration with bureaucracy'. This frustration is often caused by the complex and lengthy procedures for welfare benefits, healthcare and social services – systems which are actually intended to support carers and those they care for. Other factors causing carers to reach breaking point are not being able to take a break, the deterioration of the person being cared for and lack of sleep.

When asked what factors would have or did help them when they were at breaking point, the most important for carers was 'practical support', followed by 'the chance to take a break' and 'someone to talk to'.

Over a third (35%) of carers say that more money would make a difference - the main benefit for carers, Carers Allowance, is the lowest of its kind at just £53.10 per week. New independent research by YouGov has revealed that over three-quarters (77%) of the public in Wales believe that this is an unreasonable amount to support carers who are unable to work because of their caring responsibilities.

The importance of carers being able to take a break is also highlighted. Two-thirds (68%) have not had a break for over a year and, of these, over a third have never had a break since they started caring. Almost half of all carers who took part in the survey state that having a break would have or did help when they were at breaking point.

Carers Week is a partnership of 10 national charities that campaigns for greater recognition and support for the UK's six million carers, and celebrates the contribution they make to society, which saves the economy £87 billion a year. Carers Week 2009 has over 6,000 events and activities taking place across the country to ensure that all carers know that they are not alone, and that help and services are available.

Sir Geoff Hurst, England footballer and World Cup hero, has cared for his wife and is lending his support to Carers Week. Sir Geoff says:

"Those who care for family and friends mostly do so under the radar, without pay or acknowledgement, and deserve to be recognised for their dedication to the people they care for, not just during Carers Week but for all the weeks of the year.

"Carers face physical and mental challenges every day and should be more visibly supported and appreciated for the generous and loving hard work that they do."

Other celebrities supporting this campaign, all of whom have had experience of caring, include: Fiona Phillips, Jonathan Dimbleby, Arlene Phillips, Tony Robinson, Paul O'Grady, Gloria Hunniford, Sir David Jason, Pam Ferris, Phyllida Law and Miriam Margolyes.

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