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Worn out unpaid carers in Northern Ireland uncertain the services they rely on will continue post-pandemic

07 June 2021
  • A third (33%) of people caring unpaid for family members or friends in Northern Ireland feel unable to manage their caring role
  • 79% of carers have not had any breaks from their caring role during the pandemic
  • Carers Week charities call on the Government to give back to carers and ensure short break provisions are re-introduced as quickly and safely as possible

Fewer than one in 10 (9%) exhausted unpaid carers in Northern Ireland are confident that the support they receive with caring will continue following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fewer than one in 10 (9%) exhausted unpaid carers in Northern Ireland are confident that the support they receive with caring will continue following the COVID-19 pandemic.

After an extraordinarily challenging year providing many more hours of care for loved ones during the pandemic - coping with reduced support from health and care services as well as limited help from family and friends - unpaid carers are seriously worried about the support they will have to help them care in the future.

Research released for Carers Week (7th – 13th June 2021) found that 79% of carers in Northern Ireland have not had any breaks from their caring role during the pandemic. Of those who got a break, almost a third (29%) used the time to complete practical tasks or housework, and almost a third (30%) to attend their own medical appointments.

Four in five carers (78%) reported being exhausted as a result of caring during the pandemic.

A third (33%) said they feel unable to manage their unpaid caring role.

The six charities supporting Carers Week – Carers NI, part of Carers UK; Age UK, Carers Trust, Motor Neurone Disease Association, Oxfam GB and Rethink Mental Illness - are calling on the Government to ensure unpaid carers providing significant hours of care get the breaks they need.

Clare-Anne Magee, Head of Carers NI, said:

“Carers are exhausted having cared around the clock for more than a year, and do not know how they can continue without a break. Many are worried that the support services they rely on will not continue in the future.

“Without the right support, the stress of the last year could lead to far more carers breaking down. Carers feel they have been abandoned and are crying out for more practical support. It is therefore essential that the Government ensures that carers can take breaks and that those providing endless hours of care each week get access to the meaningful breaks they need and deserve.

“We’re calling on the Department of Health and the Public Health Agency to look at the Infection, Prevention and Control guidelines in relation to day centres and short break providers and to give carers a timeline for the full return of services. Where services can’t re-open fully and safely, appropriate and meaningful alternatives and practical support for carers must be put in place.

“Unpaid carers need hope and support in the future and going forward, they must be at the heart of the Government’s plans for social care reform.”

72% of carers in Northern Ireland responding to the Carers Week survey reported poor mental health, while 67% said their physical health had deteriorated.72% of carers in Northern Ireland responding to the Carers Week survey reported poor mental health, while 67% said their physical health had deteriorated.

Two thirds of carers (69%) say they are worried about continuing to care without a break.

- ENDS -

 

Media contact

For media enquiries, contact Clare-Anne Magee, Head of Carers NI on 07793937068 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Alternatively, you can contact the Carers UK press office on 020 7378 4937, 07580 130090/ 07941 273 108 (out of hours) or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Notes to Editors

What is a break?

For carers a break is time off from caring and a chance to do things they would like to do, but can’t do while they are caring – everyday things such as catching up with friends, going for a walk, or simply catching up with some sleep. It could be for 30 minutes, an afternoon, or a week. A break could be provided by accessing care services such as replacement care, sitting services, a day service, or through support from family and friends providing either respite or essential care.

About the research

Carers UK carried out an online survey between 8 April and 25 April 2021. A total of 2,850 carers and former carers responded to the survey. This included 2,754 current carers and 96 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. As not all respondents completed every question in the survey, a number of the figures given are based upon responses from fewer than 2,754 carers.

About Carers Week 2021

Carers Week takes place from 7-13 June 2021 across the UK. The theme is Making Caring Visible and Valued.

Carers Week, established by Carers UK 27 years ago, is an annual awareness campaign which takes place to recognise and raise awareness of the vital contribution made by the UK’s 6.5 million carers. It is also a time of intensive local activity with hundreds of virtual events planned for carers across the UK.

Website: www.carersweek.org 

Twitter: @CarersWeek #carersweek

Facebook: www.facebook.com/CarersWeek 

What is a carer?

A carer is someone who provides unpaid care and support to a family member or friend who has a disability, illness, mental health condition or who needs extra help as they grow older.

The Centrica and Carers UK partnership

British Gas is the headline supporter of Carers Week 2021.

Carers UK and Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, are in a strategic partnership, building on a 15-year relationship which has helped Centrica develop leading policies to support employees who are carers. This includes providing paid care leave and a thriving UK carers’ employee network. Together we want to create a world where every carer feels recognized, valued and supported. That means sharing useful information, raising awareness and finding new ways to care for our loved ones in their homes. We hope to make a lasting difference.

To mark Carers Week 2021 at Centrica, we will be running a virtual event for all colleagues bringing together leaders, colleagues and carers to discuss the realities for paid and unpaid carers and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK. We will also be sharing the stories of our colleagues who have caring responsibilities and encouraging everyone to add their voice to the campaign.

About Nutricia

Nutricia also supports Carers Week 2021.

Nutricia is the UK’s largest provider of specialist medical nutrition products and services and believes in the power of nutrition to make a positive difference to health.

Nutricia provide a wide range of science-based products and services that meet the needs of patients and healthcare professionals alike. For example, through the Nutricia Homeward service nearly 29,000 home enterally tube fed patients across the UK are supported with nursing care and regular deliveries of medical nutritional products and equipment.

To ensure that patients have access to the right nutritional care when they need it the most, Nutricia work closely and collaboratively with a variety of organisations and healthcare professionals.

Carers UK is working in partnership with Nutricia to help improve understanding about nutrition and care amongst carers. They provide support through information resources, training, social media and website information.

To mark Carers Week 2021, Nutricia employees will be invited to a series of events to promote awareness about caring. As a long-standing member of Employers for Carers, Nutricia knows how important it is to provide colleagues with the support and the work flexibility they need to juggle paid work and any unpaid caring responsibilities.

For more information on Nutricia visit www.nutricia.co.uk 

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