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Struggling unpaid carers face bleak Christmas as health boards and local authorities ask them to provide more care

16 December 2021
  • New research by Carers Wales finds significant disruption to carer services and uncertainty going into the Christmas period
  • 5 out of 7 health boards are asking unpaid carers to provide more support for loved ones
  • 60% of carers have said that over the last year their physical health has deteriorated whilst 71% have said their mental health has worsened
  • Unpaid carers are struggling financially with the costs of caring, spending an average of £1,300 on caring.
  • Carers Wales calls for more flexible support from councils to help carers cope with further Omicron disruption.

New research released today by the charity Carers Wales finds unpaid family carers are facing a bleak winter as services they rely on remain heavily disrupted, risking the health of both carers and ill and disabled people across Wales, with little hope for any improvement in the new year.

The results of the charity’s State of Caring survey found just 8% of unpaid carers in Wales said The results of the charity’s State of Caring survey found just 8% of unpaid carers in Wales said dayservices or care homes for the person they look after had fully re-opened nearly two years on from the start of the pandemic, and just 1 in 6 (16%) reported that sitting services were fully operational. Nearly half of Welsh carers (44%) said NHS funded care was still reduced or significantly reduced, with just 1 in 5 (20%) saying NHS care was fully operational. Unpaid carers are feeling the impact of widespread difficulties in recruiting paid care workers, with only 4 in 10 (40%) saying support from care workers had fully re-opened.

In the last several months 5 of the 7 health boards¹ in Wales and their respective local authorities²,³ have announced they are unable to fulfill community care packages in light of challenges within the paid care workforce and are asking unpaid carers to take on additional tasks as a result. This is despite research published this summer⁴ that found 72% of unpaid carers had been unable to take any breaks at all from their caring role since the start of the pandemic. The State of Caring survey, completed by 740 carers in Wales, found widespread pessimism among carers that services would be restored in the future, with two thirds (66%) predicting that services would be reduced still further. As the Welsh Government indicates that further restrictions will be needed to tackle the Omicron variant, the hundreds of thousands of unpaid carers in Wales face a bleak winter fearing services could be reduced even further, risking their health and wellbeing.

Unpaid carers and those they look after have seen their health deteriorate during the pandemic. 71% reported that the health of the person they care for had worsened over the course of the pandemic, while 60% of carers said their own physical health had deteriorated over the same period and 71% said their mental health had worsened. Sadly, on a 1 to 10 scale, carers rated their satisfaction with their own lives on average at just 4 out of 10.

65% of carers in Wales are spending their own money on care, services or products for the personthey care for. Carers are spending an average of £109.75 per month on caring, or over £1,300 per year, demonstrating the financial penalty experienced by many people for stepping in to care for a loved one. 36% of carers said they were struggling to make ends meet, and a majority (55%) are worried about the impact caring will have on their finances. Against a backdrop of rising household bills, unpaid carers are facing acute financial worries this Christmas.year, demonstrating the financial penalty experienced by many people for stepping in to care for a loved one. 36% of carers said they were struggling to make ends meet, and a majority (55%) are worried about the impact caring will have on their finances. Against a backdrop of rising household bills, unpaid carers are facing acute financial worries this Christmas.

7 in 10 (71%) of carers who are also in employment worry about their ability to continue to juggle work and caring, and 63% said they had given up opportunities at work because of their caring responsibilities. 64% of carers said work gives them a break from caring, underscoring the wellbeing benefits to maintaining employment, alongside the need to avoid increased staff turnover for businesses and a loss of skills among employees whose careers face being curtailed.

Claire Morgan, Director of Carers Wales, said

“The findings from our State of Caring survey, underpinned by a record response rate, are stark. In 2021 many unpaid carers have seen their health deteriorate, their services disrupted, and their careers curtailed if they are in employment.

Nearly two years on from the start of the pandemic, and many months after Wales left lockdown in the spring, services carers rely on are still heavily disrupted and the moves by many local authorities and health boards to ask unpaid carers to take on yet more caring duties risks a further deterioration in the health of carers and those they care for. This is despite unpaid carers saving Wales £33m every day of the pandemic5, or £12 billion over a year.

2022 must begin with urgent action to meet the needs of unpaid carers who have gone above and beyond during the pandemic. The Welsh Government and councils should consider the recommendations made in our report and must work together to increase the availability and flexibility of direct payments to help carers manage amidst wider pressures in social care.With new restrictions appearing likely in the coming weeks due to the Omicron variant, they must also take steps to mitigate any further disruption to services for carers”.

Carers Wales is calling on the Welsh Government to:

  • Extend the recently announced £100 winter fuel payment to unpaid carers in receipt of Carer’s Allowance.
  • Require organisations receiving Welsh Government funding to adopt carer-positive workplace practices.
  • Work with local authorities to provide additional direct payments to carers, and increase flexibility in their use, to enable carers to purchase alternative forms of support in light of the shortage of paid care workers.

The State of Caring in Wales Briefing can be found at carersuk.org/wales/stateofcaring

More information and contact detailsMore information and contact details.

Carers Wales is the national campaigning charity for unpaid carers in Wales. We provide information, advice and wellbeing support for the 683,000 unpaid carers in Wales and use research and influencing to campaign for the support carers deserve.

To discuss this press release please contact Carers Wales on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 029 2081 1370.

Case studies available on request.

/CarersWales on Facebook and @carerswales on Twitter

[1] Aneurin Bevan, Betsi Cadwaladr, Cardiff and the Vale, Hywel Dda, Swansea Bay.
[2] BBC News: Social care: Demand pushes unpaid carers 'to the brink'
[3] Newport Council: Community care services under pressure due to high demand and staff shortages
[4] Carers Week: Carers Week 2021 Research Report
[5] Carers Wales: Unpaid carers in Wales have saved £33 million every day of the pandemic

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