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Wake-up call for nation over reality of family caring

09 June 2014

Research reveals crisis of carers struggling without support and huge gaps in national understanding of growing social issue.

Across the UK an invisible army are caring for increasing numbers of older, ill or disabled loved ones.

But research published today to mark Carers Week 2014 reveals worrying public ignorance of the rising call on families to provide unpaid care.1

The reality is that 6.5 million people2 – that’s 1 in 8 adults – are already caring for a family member or close friend who is frail or facing long-term illness or disability.

Today’s Carers Week/You Gov poll shows that adults of all ages drastically underestimate the issue, with only a tiny fraction (9%) of the nation correctly stating the true scale of unpaid, family care.3

And while numbers are predicted to rise to 9 million by 2037,4 most adults don’t think caring will happen to them. Less than a third of adults who are currently not carers (29%) believe it likely they will become carers in the future, the survey found.5

Speaking on behalf of the nine charities behind Carers Week 2014, Heléna Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK said:

"The reality is that all of us, at some point in our lives, will either be carers or need the help of carers. This survey is a wake-up call, clearly and alarmingly showing that as a society we need a much wider understanding of the realities of caring.”

The survey also asked what would be of greatest concern if a loved one did come to need care.

The nation’s top 3 caring worries are revealed as:

  1. Money worries – being unable to cope financially
  2. Emotional strain – finding it too stressful/upsetting
  3. I wouldn’t know how – not having the experience or skills to be a carer

The views of current carers gathered through the same poll, reveal carers across the country are struggling behind closed doors without adequate help. Worryingly, over half (53%) of carers polled said they were not receiving enough support.6 Their experiences included:

“My brother cares full time for both my parents. My father’s 91 and unable to walk without assistance. My mother’s 86, has severe dementia and needs help 24/7. I help at weekends and one evening a week. My brother’s spoken to the doctor about care for my mother and was told the dementia nurse has a full case load. He’s contacted a charity who have agreed to help for two hours per week.”


“My daughter has spina bifida and is a full time wheelchair user… At 60, it can be hard for me to push a manual wheelchair plus carry shopping up a hill…”


“I have been looking after my disabled wife for 13 years… I work part time and my physical health is not great and sometimes I feel like I am cracking up.”

Heléna Herklots added:

“We need to understand what carers are doing day in and day out, the impact caring can have - and the difference we as individuals and organisations can make. That is why during Carers Week we are calling on the public and professionals across the UK to reach out to carers in their local communities.”

Notes for editors:

  • Case studies and spokespeople from all supporting charities available on request.
  • Contact: Maggie Stratton: 0207 378 4936 or Steve McIntosh 0207 378 4937 Out of hours: 07875 724088/ 07811 34438
  • Carers Week 2014 runs from Monday 9 to Sunday 15 June UK-wide. Further findings about the reality of caring today will be released through the week of campaigning.
  • Carers Week is an annual UK-wide awareness campaign which takes place to celebrate and recognise the vital contribution made by the UK’s 6.5 million carers. This year the campaign focuses on the Carers Week Quest – the greatest ever drive to reach out to the UK’s carers.
  • Carers Week Quest 2014 is calling on individuals and organisations across the UK to reach carers in their local communities who are missing out on vital support and services. Over 12,000 local events are planned.
  • Carers Week is made possible by Carers UK joining forces with Age UK, Carers Trust, Independent Age, Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie Cancer Care, MS Society, Parkinson’s UK, Skills for Care and the Stroke Association and support from Sainsbury’s and Sanctuary Supported Living.


1 All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2393 UK adults aged 18+. Fieldwork was undertaken between 16th to 19th May 2014.The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

2 Census 2011

3 Respondents were asked to identify the proportion of UK adults they think currently provide unpaid care. 9% correctly identified 1 in 8 are caring. A fifth of UK adults (19%) – the highest selected option - thought 1in 25 UK adults currently provide unpaid care.

4 Carers UK, Facts About Carers 2012

5 When asked how likely, if at all, they were to become a carer in the future 5% said very likely and 24% said fairly likely, 30% said not very likely and 17% not at all likely. 24% did not know.

6 When asked to what extent those caring felt they had been given the support needed to do the role well 41% said definitely not enough support, 11 % not quite enough support, 19 % a fair amount of support, 14% a lot of support and 15% did not know.

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