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Carers Scotland calls for radical overhaul of benefits and care system to prevent carers reaching breaking point

08 June 2009

Charity reacts to new research published for Carers Week showing carers are suffering breakdowns and extreme levels of stress.


Carers Scotland is calling for a radical overhaul of the benefits and care system to prevent carers reaching breaking point in the light of new research published by the Carers Week consortium.  The research found that almost three-quarters (74%) of people providing unpaid care for a loved one who is ill, frail or disabled have reached breaking point due to the pressures of their caring role.

The results show that the strain of caring is causing carers such extreme levels of stress and depression that they are suffering breakdowns and, in some cases, even attempting suicide.

Patrick Begley, Director of Carers Scotland said, “It is vital that there is an overhaul of the benefits and care system.  It is a travesty that the people who provide £87 billion worth of care every year, unpaid, are pushed to breaking point by the systems that are supposed to be there to help them.  And the public agrees with us – they value carers as much as nurses and firefighters.  We need an urgent improvement in benefits and better investment in care if we are to stop carers being treated so badly by the system.  We must secure change if we are to improve carers’ lives.”

The Carers Week research found that financial worries were a major cause of carers reaching breaking point. Another major factor, cited by four in ten respondents, is ‘frustration with bureaucracy’. This includes the problems that carers face in trying to claim benefits, get an assessment from social services, and arrange care for the person they look after. A lack of sleep was also cited by many carers as a major cause of their stress.

When asked by Carers Week what would have or did help them when they were at breaking point, nearly a third (31%) of carers said that more money would have made a difference. The main benefit for carers, Carer’s Allowance, is the lowest of its kind at just £53.10 per week, equivalent to £1.52 per hour for a minimum of 35 hours caring each week.  Carers Scotland and Carers UK recently launched a Carers Poverty Charter calling for carers’ benefits to be improved. It is backed by several other leading charities and Carers Scotland is urging members of the public to back the campaign, which it will take to the political parties later this summer.

The campaign received a boost today when new independent research by YouGov, commissioned by Carers Week, revealed that three-quarters (76%) of the public believe that £53.10 is an unreasonable amount to support carers who are unable to work because of their caring responsibilities.

The stresses of caring contribute to major health problems among carers. People providing high levels of care are twice as likely to be permanently sick or disabled than the general population and 110,000 people suffer mental and physical ill health as a direct consequence of the stress and physical demands of caring.

To try and combat some of carers’ health problems Carers Scotland and Carers UK have teamed up with Lloydspharmacy to offer free heart health checks for carers during Carers Week


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