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I was admitted to hospital after a breakdown due to exhaustion and chronic pain. If I had had more breaks from my caring role or adequate mental health support I might not have had the breakdown at all.” 


What is the issue?

Social care is fundamental for unpaid carers and the people they support who need care. Whilst millions of people receive care across the UK and each nation has its own laws and delivery mechanisms, but millions also don't get the care they need affecting carers’ health, wellbeing, ability to work, finances and relationships.   

Social care allows people to live full lives. As well as providing essential basic support like washing and dressing, help with eating or medication, it provides broader support to allow people to maintain social contacts and friendships, go out for social activities or to keep fit, and more. It includes occupational therapy so that people can regain or learn new skills to help them be more independent and includes using technology and adaptations that help with challenges in their lives. It is used by people with many different conditions and of all ages, from disabled children, to adults with learning disabilities, with multiple sclerosis, mental illness and also older people who need support. Social care is a vital pillar of many people's lives.  

Social care not only provides the vital independence and support for a person with a disability, long term condition or who needs help in older age, it provides the breaks and support that is needed by unpaid carers, reducing the pressure on them to provide the care. 

Great social care helps carers to juggle work and care, focus on their own health and wellbeing and have a life outside of their caring role. But, social care is in short supply and this has an impact on the lives of people needing care and carers.  

  • A quarter (26%) of respondents said they needed affordable and accessible alternative care in order to work. A further 15% said they were at risk of reducing their hours at work or of giving up work completely without access to it.1 
  • 77% of carers said that their ability to take breaks has got worse since the pandemic.i 

Carers’ rights to social care are different in each nation of the UK which Carers UK, Carers Northern Ireland, Carers Scotland and Carers Wales have campaigned hard for. Please refer to the other nations websites for more information. In England, carers’ rights to social care are largely contained in the Care Act 2014, but are broader than that. You can read more about our successes in the Care Act 2014 here.  


What needs to change?

I paid for someone to give me a half day a month break, so that I could get my hair cut, go to the dentist, have my smear test and mammogram and other things. Unfortunately, because of the increase in rent and cost of living I can’t afford to pay anyone so now I just have to manage somehow.” 

The Government must inject an urgent and significant increase in funding for social care services, investing significant funds in carers’ break so they are able to look after their health and wellbeing.  

The Government should set out plans for a long term, sustainable, solution to funding social care that has carers at its heart. To be sustainable, a reformed system must enable and actively support carers to do the following:  

  • Work in paid employment if they wish to, with the flexibility to care at the same time
  • Have equal access to learning and education opportunities
  • Have equal opportunities to volunteer and contribute in other ways to communities
  • Have time to focus on other relationships – children, partners, grandchildren, friends, parents, siblings
  • Be able to maintain physical and mental health and wellbeing that is not affected by caring
  • Avoid poverty and financial hardship
  • Have suitable breaks from their caring role
  • Have good quality and appropriate housing, including the right adaptations
  • Ensure a choice about caring and how much care to provide, as well as having a life beyond caring.



Carers Rights Day 2022 report

Our research report Cycles of caring: transitions in and out of unpaid care has been published by Carers UK in collaboration with the Centre for Care at the University of Sheffield, to coincide with Carers Rights Day 2022. Authored by Dr Maria Petrillo, Professor Matt Bennett and Professor Gwilym Pryce, the research found that over the period 2010-2020:

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