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The forgotten families in lockdown: unpaid carers close to burnout during Covid-19 crisis

22 April 2020
  • Reduced or closed care services mean family members in Scotland are picking up even more care for older, sick or disabled relatives
  • Carers in Scotland tell charity they feel ‘overwhelmed’ and are at risk of burning out
  • Carers Scotland calls for Government recognition of unpaid carers’ efforts during pandemic, a Carer Wellbeing Fund to support carers in hardship and an increase to Carer’s Allowance

A staggering 78% of unpaid carers in Scotland are having to provide more care for their loved ones during the coronavirus outbreak.

2 in 5 (39%) of them are providing more care because their local care and support services have been reduced or closed. Nearly a quarter (23%) are providing more carer because they are worried about paid care staff having contact with the person they care for. 

A survey by Carers Scotland of 890 unpaid carers in Scotland showed that, on average, carers are picking up an additional 10 hours of unpaid care per week, helping loved ones with personal care, practical tasks and emotional support.

Reduced care and support services, and paid care workers isolating or without personal protective equipment (PPE), mean many carers in Scotland have no choice but to care round the clock for loved ones with complex health conditions and disabilities - without any hope of a break.

More than half (53%) of carers told the charity they feel overwhelmed managing their caring responsibilities during the outbreak and are worried about burning out in the coming weeks.

87% of carers in Scotland said they are worried about what will happen to the people they care for if they have to self-isolate or become ill.

Simon Hodgson, Director of Carers Scotland, said:

Unpaid carers are vital in the national effort to keep vulnerable people safe during the coronavirus outbreak yet many fear that continuing to care around the clock will lead to them burning out.

“Many are overwhelmed and incredibly anxious about how they will manage in the weeks ahead.

“Both the Scottish and UK Governments must acknowledge the huge efforts of Scotland’s 700,000 unpaid carers during this pandemic and provide the support unpaid carers so desperately need

“The Scottish Government must ensure that the impact of reduced services on carers and their families are closely monitored in terms of carers’ health and well-being and ability to care, to avoid burn-out. Support must be reinstated and restored as soon as possible.

“Financial support is also vital and as well seeking an increase in Carer’s Allowance, we want the Scottish Government to establish a Carer Wellbeing Fund equivalent to the Student Fund of £5M.  This could be provided directly to carers centres and young carers services to enable them to help carers facing financial hardship as a consequence of COVID19.”

Before coronavirus, social care services were already in short supply and those families with support met a high threshold to get any form of care. Now, some of those services have disappeared and unpaid carers are having to cope alone.

Carers Scotland is calling on both the Scottish and UK Governments to acknowledge the huge efforts of unpaid carers protecting vulnerable people during this epidemic. Carers desperately want paid care staff to have better access to testing and personal protective equipment, as well as wanting access themselves, so they can keep the people they care for safe.

The new research shows 79% of carers in Scotland are having to spend more money during the outbreak. The top increases in expenditure include spending more on food (70%) – due to lack of supermarket delivery slots and need for specialist food - and household bills (53%).

The charity is urging the Scottish Government to increase Carer’s Allowance – the main benefit for people caring unpaid for 35 hours or more each week - to recognise the crucial role they are playing in the country’s fight back against coronavirus. In Scotland, carers receive a Carer’s Allowance Supplement twice a year which increases Carer’s Allowance by £460.30 each year but more is needed to recognise the contribution of carers and the increased costs they are facing. 

We are also calling on the Scottish Government to establish a Carer Wellbeing Fund of £5m that is provided directly to carers centres and young carers services to enable those centres to help carers facing financial hardship as a consequence of COVID19.[1]

The Scottish Government must also ensure that the impact of reduced services on carers and their families are closely monitored in terms of carers’ health and well-being and ability to care, to avoid burn-out. Support must be reinstated and restored as soon as possible.

 

 [1] The Scottish Government has already provided £500,000 to carers services to support them in moving to working remotely and most services have established means of making grants available to carers.

- ENDS -

 

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About the research

Carers UK, and in Scotland, Carers Scotland carried out an online survey between 3rd April and 14th April 2020. The report from this survey is called "Caring behind closed doors Forgotten families in the coronavirus outbreak" and can be found at: carersuk.org/closeddoors

A total of 5,047 carers and former carers responded to the survey. This included 4830 current carers and 217 former carers. 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. Of current carers responding to the survey:

  • 67% live in England, 19% live in Scotland, 9% live in Northern Ireland, and 6% live in Wales.
  • 81% identify as female and 18% identify as male.
  • 23% consider themselves to have a disability.
  • 1% are aged 0–24, 4% are aged 25–34, 13% are aged 35–44, 27% are aged 45–54, 32% are aged 55– 64, 17% are aged 65–74, and 5% are aged 75 and over.
  • 4% identified as lesbian, gay or bisexual.
  • 4% described their ethnicity as black or minority ethnic.
  • 18% also have childcare responsibilities for a non-disabled child under 18.
  • 36% have been caring for 15 years or more, 17% for between 10–14 years, 24% for 5–9 years, 20% for 1–4 years, 2% for less than one year and just 1% have been caring since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak.
  • Most (71%) care for one person, 20% care for two people, 6% for three people, and 2% care for four or more people.

As not all respondents completed every question in the survey, a number of the figures given in this report, including those presented in this Appendix, are based upon responses from fewer than 5,047 carers.

Previous research by the Carers UK suggests there could be as many as 8.8 million unpaid carers in the UK. 

In Scotland there is estimated to be between 700,000 and 800,000 carers and the latest Scottish Government data suggests there are at least 690,000 carers including 29,000 young carers in Scotland[1]

 [1] https://www.gov.scot/policies/social-care/unpaid-carers/

We have developed specific information to support carers during the coronavirus pandemic here and information for carers in Scotland on local support and advice here 

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