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Research: Financial pressure of caring unpaid for a loved one intensifies over time

29 November 2018
  • New research shows that unpaid carers’ finances worsen the longer they’re caring for a loved one
  • Half of people caring for more than 15 years and struggling financially are having to cut back on food or heating
  • UK's leading carers’ charity urges local authorities and employers to provide accessible information on carers’ rights

Caring unpaid for a family member or friend who is older or disabled can have stark financial implications for carers over time, research published by Carers UK today reveals.

The study shows that just two in five (44%) of those caring for more than 15 years could afford their bills without struggling financially, compared with three in five (62%) of carers in their first year.

Double the proportion of people caring for over 15 years have been in debt compared with those in their first year.

The number of carers in debt because of caring increases from 12% of people caring for a year or less to 19% of those caring between five and nine years. The proportion rises steeply to 25% of those who have been caring for over 15 years.

The new research reveals how the financial hardship experienced by many carers is intensified over time with their financial resilience diminishing the longer their caring role continues. Carers looking after someone for more than ten years are having to make tougher financial decisions about cutting back on spending, borrowing money or using savings to manage.

Of carers struggling financially, 42% of people caring for between 1 and 4 years are cutting back on essentials such as food and heating, rising to 50% of those who have been caring for over 15 years.

Emily Holzhausen OBE, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Carers UK said:

“We know that caring unpaid for a loved one has significant financial implications for many people, with two million giving up work to care and Carer’s Allowance the lowest benefit of its kind.

“Our research shows that financial hardship worsens for carers the longer they’re caring and underlines the real need for them to have the right support and information about their rights early on, so they can best support themselves in the long-run. Carers who wish to continue or return to work should have the support to do so.

“It’s easy to miss out on the financial support available and we are urging local health and care authorities and employers to maximise early help for carers by making policies and rights to financial support clear and accessible. Carers can also make the most of our Thinking Ahead tool which helps prepare for the potential costs involved in caring for a loved one to help plan ahead.”

The research comes on Carers Rights Day (30th November 2018), as Carers UK reaches out to the 6.5 million carers in the UK to provide them with crucial information about the rights, financial support, and practical help they are entitled to.

This year, under the theme of ‘Caring for Your Future’, Carers UK is sharing information and advice to support carers to prepare for the future. To support people with thinking about how to prepare for the changing impact of caring, Carers UK is launching a new planning tool, Thinking Ahead.



Media contact

Please contact the Carers UK press office on:

  • 020 7378 4937 (9am-5pm, Monday-Friday)
  • 07534 487 027/ 07941 273 108 (out of hours)
  • This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Notes to editors

About the research

The figures in this report come from responses to Carers UK’s 2018 State of Caring survey. A total of 7,397 carers and former carers responded to the survey between March and May 2018, but only responses from the 6,828 people currently providing care who completed the survey are included in this report.

Compared to the carer population as a whole, respondents to this survey were more likely to be female and caring for a high number of hours every week. As not all respondents completed every question in the survey, a number of the figures given in this report are based upon responses from fewer than 6,828 carers. This, together with the sample sizes of different groups, should be taken into consideration when reading the results.

In particular, it should be noted that:

  • The figures relating to actions of carers struggling to make ends meet who have been caring for less than a year are based on 31 respondents.
  • The figures relating to actions of carers struggling to make ends meet who are looking for work are based on 66 respondents.


Carers Rights Day 2018: Caring for Your Future

Each year Carers UK holds Carers Rights Day to bring organisations across the UK together to help carers in their local community know their rights and find out how to get the help and support they are entitled to. 

Every day 6,000 people become carers but often it’s not something we’ve planned for. This Carers Rights Day we’re focusing on supporting people to prepare for the future through our theme: Caring for Your Future.

Carers Rights Day 2018 is kindly supported by Nutricia Advanced Medical Nutrition and Specsavers which enables us to distribute free copies of our new updated Looking After Someone Guide to event organisers and carers across the UK.

Carers UK has produced 6 new updated versions of the Guide covering England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. A Welsh language version of the Wales Guide and a Gujarati version of the England Guide have also been produced. All the Guides are available at


The Thinking Ahead tool

Thinking Ahead is a free online resource that aims to prepare people for the potential costs involved in caring for a family member or loved one, and highlights key issues for carers in work.  It explains what sources of support are available and steps that can be taken to reduce the financial impact of caring. It has been developed through the Money Advice Service’s What Works Fund. Unum are supporting Carers UK to disseminate and publicise the tool.


About Carers UK

Carers UK is a charity led by carers, for carers – our mission is to make life better for carers.

  • We give expert advice, information and support
  • We connect carers so no-one has to care alone
  • We campaign together for lasting change
  • We innovate to find new ways to reach and support carers

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