Had to sell my house to pay debts and now renting. The debts arose because of the physical and emotional exhaustion and financial cost of caring.
What is the issue?
Many carers find themselves in poverty or facing financial hardship as a direct result of providing unpaid care. Many face additional costs associated with caring, like paying for care services and assistive equipment. They also face higher living costs, as ill health or disability push up household bills like heating and laundry bills, and result in additional transport costs and hospital parking charges. At the same time, as their living costs rise, families also often face a lower income as providing unpaid care reduces their ability to work.
The financial impact of caring is often exacerbated by delays in accessing benefits and other financial support. Caring can come as a shock and families, unprepared for the impact on their work and household bills, often report trying to cope with the costs of caring for months or years before they find help. The cost of living crisis has intensified financial hardship for unpaid carers and has squeezed their already low incomes to breaking point.
1.2 million carers are in poverty in the UKi. 1 in 6 (16%) unpaid carers told us that they 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 even 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).
What needs to change
I am bankrupting my future to pay for the present.
The Government should increase the level of Carer’s Allowance and other carers’ benefits, whilst also increasing the earnings limit for Carer’s Allowance, ensuring that in future years that it is linked to the National Living Wage rate.
The Government should ensure that all benefits are aligned to current rates of inflation, so that increases in benefits reflect the increases to the cost of living.
The Government should include tall unpaid carers in cost of living support measures to ensure they are adequately supported with managing rising costs.
What Carers UK is doing
We published our report Heading for Crisis: caught between caring and rising costs, which reveals the financial challenges faced by unpaid carers. We led 66 organisations to write to the new Chancellor of the Exchequer ahead of the Government’s Autumn Statement to ensure that unpaid carers were included in the Chancellor’s package of support.
Earlier this year, we published our Under Pressure report, highlighting the financial hardship faced by unpaid carers amid the cost of living crisis. We also responded to a Work and Pensions Select Committee Inquiry into the cost of living crisis.
Please see up to date information about our cost of living campaign here.
We also work in partnership with other organisations to highlight the financial impact of caring, including as a member of the Disability Benefits Consortium.
We work on a range of areas to look at reducing the costs of caring and improving carers lives in the short and longer term including pensions, tax breaks, exemptions or reductions from local taxes or costs, free or discounted support, reduction in care costs, benefits and entitlements take-up and we provide a wealth of advice for carers to help learn about how they might be entitled.
We run Carers Rights Day, Carers Week and other regular awareness campaigns throughout the year to help carers understand about their entitlements early.
State of Caring 2022 report
On 8 November 2022, Carers UK published its State of Caring 2022 report.
Each year, Carers UK carries out a survey of carers to understand the state of caring in the UK.
A record number of carers and former carers shared their experiences this year, with over 13,400 carers taking part in the survey. 12,424 of these are currently providing care. This makes this the largest State of Caring survey carried out by Carers UK to date.
The report contains a snapshot of carers’ experiences in 2022, capturing the impact that caring has on carers’ lives and evidencing the policy recommendations that would improve this.Read