Unpaid carers are facing unprecedented financial difficulties because of the UK’s current cost of living crisis, piling further stress on those caring for family and friends after an extremely challenging three years caring through COVID-19. Without urgent support from Government, we are now extremely worried that many will simply be unable to cope.
Caring already comes with additional costs that can have a significant impact on carers’ finances, and we know many carers suffer financial hardship as a direct result of the care they provide.
Carers told us last year that they were already having to dip into their savings, use credit cards, and cut back on essentials to keep the person they care for warm and healthy. Our Under Pressure: Caring and the cost of living crisis briefing, published in March 2022 and based on a survey of over 3,300 carers, highlighted the increasing pressure on unpaid carers due to rising costs.
In October 2022, we published a new report, Heading for Crisis: caught between caring and rising costs, based on a survey of over 13,000 unpaid carers. The report found that:
- 1 in 6 (16%) unpaid carers are in debt as a result of their caring role and their financial situation, increasing to 2 in 5 (40%) for unpaid carers in receipt of Carer’s Allowance.
- The proportion of carers unable to afford their utility bills has more than doubled since last year – from 6% in 2021 to 14% in 2022.
- Those in receipt of Carer’s Allowance are also more likely to be cutting back on food and heating (35%) compared to all carers (25%). Nearly 8% of unpaid carers in receipt of Carer’s Allowance are using food banks to cope with the cost of living crisis, compared to 5% of all unpaid carers.
- Carers who care for longer and provide more hours of care per week are more likely to be struggling financially. The proportion of people caring for over 5 years are almost twice as likely to be struggling to afford the cost of food (20%) and be in debt (19%) compared to people caring for less than 5 years (11% and 9% respectively).
Our calls on Government
To ensure carers are supported during this extremely difficult time, we are calling on the UK Government to immediately provide additional and targeted financial support for carers - particularly for those on the lowest incomes.
In particular, we want Government to take action to:
1. Conduct a review of the links between caring and poverty to identify key levers to support different groups of unpaid carers, in order to prevent them from falling into poverty.
2. Reform the benefits system to better support unpaid carers to maintain their financial stability whilst they perform their caring role, including an increase in means tested benefits associated with caring.
3. Reform Carer’s Allowance to ensure it works at supporting carers in a variety of different situations.
4. Raise the level of Carer’s Allowance and increasing the earnings limit, benefitting at least 175,000 unpaid carers.
5. Provide all unpaid carers with targeted support during the current cost of living crisis.
6. Provide a dedicated Work Allowance for carers in receipt of Universal Credit, thus enabling more carers to keep their paid work and to return to work alongside their caring role.
Ahead of the Autumn Statement in November 2022, Carers UK organised a joint open letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Jeremy Hunt MP. This letter was signed by 66 organisations and highlighted the precarious financial situation of unpaid carers amidst the cost of living crisis. The letter argued for targeted support for unpaid carers to be introduced as part of the Autumn Statement as well as a longer-term review of benefits and financial support offered to them.
Read our joint letter here.
Most recently, we have worked to establish the Carer Poverty Coalition – a grouping of over 100 national and local organisations - working to campaign to reduce and prevent poverty amongst unpaid carers.
Read more about the coalition here.