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Nation’s carers struggling with alarming levels of hardship, Carers UK inquiry reveals

04 February 2014

12-month investigation exposes stark reality faced by those looking after loved ones who are older, disabled or seriously ill: loss of savings, debt and struggling to afford food and heating

SPIRALLING costs of caring, coupled with devastating cuts to support are leaving families caring for loved ones in serious hardship, new research by charity Carers UK and Carers Wales reveals.

The charity’s Caring & Family Finances Inquiry shows vast numbers of carers accumulating unmanageable debt as they struggle to cope with loss of income, savings and benefits alongside rising everyday food, fuel and care related bills.

Key evidence for Wales includes:

  • Almost a third (33%) unable to afford utility bills.
  • One in three were in debt as a result of caring.
  • 1 in 10 adults in Wales said their work was negatively affected by caring.
  • 6% of adults in Wales, 145,803 people, had given up work to care at some point.
  • Over half (56%) of working-age carers in a household with no-one in paid work.

The Inquiry also reveals that, despite rapid rises in the number of families providing care to loved ones, Government cuts to support across the UK will leave carers facing a shocking £1 billion cut.

And, Carers UK says, carers not only feel they are not recognised or valued but also feel victim of increasing public criticism for claiming their social security entitlements.

Keith Bowen, Director of Carers Wales said:

“Those caring, unpaid, for loved ones save society vast sums, but at huge personal cost - a cost this Inquiry shows is pushing families to the brink. Caring is often a dual blow, with household incomes hit by reduced earnings, and bills rising as a result of the extra costs of ill-health or disability. With an ageing population, more of us will care for loved ones – yet a blizzard of cuts to social care and benefits mean there is less and less support available. This is unacceptable and unsustainable. This country’s carers are being badly let down. Unless Government acts to stop the cuts to support for carers there is the risk families will be pushed to breaking point and left unable to care for their own.”

In the Inquiry recommendations, Carers UK is calling for:

  • An end to cuts to carers’ benefits and support services.
  • Urgent reform of financial help for carers.
  • The Government to make a commitment that future policy will not leave carers worse off, by implementing a ‘carer’ test for future benefits and social care proposals.

The main carers’ benefit, Carer’s Allowance, is currently £59.75 a week for a minimum of 35 hours caring – equivalent to £1.67 an hour. It is not available to those who earn more than £100 per week or to those in receipt of the basic State Pension.

Experiences of carers who gave evidence to the Inquiry, included the need to keep the vulnerable and ill warm, meant families footing bills for running heating for 12 and more hours a day, with no let-up in warmer months when those with serious illness must be kept cool; costs of travel to medical appointments and the need to rely heavily on taxis; the need to wash three or more loads of washing a day when caring for someone with continence problems, or who is tube fed; the increasingly prohibitive price of buying in care to simply get out of the door for work or respite, compounding the isolation caring can bring; the cost to future financial security and resilience of quitting work or cutting hours to care.

Read more about the Caring & Family Finances Inquiry »

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