Charities are supporting Carers Week by calling on the UK Government to provide more funding for unpaid carers. Following a recent survey, finding 74% of carers feeling exhausted due to caring during the pandemic, the call to action hopes to see carers having more time off for their health and well-being.
An online survey by Carers UK had almost 3,000 carers or former carers responding to the research. It found that carers lost, on average, 25 hours of support a month they previously had from services or family and friends before the pandemic, and many are worried about the support they will receive to help them care in the future.
Chief Executive of Carers UK, Helen Walker, said: "Carers have sacrificed their physical and mental health caring for loved ones over the course of this pandemic. They are exhausted having cared around the clock and do not know how they can continue without a break. Without the right support, the stress and challenges of the last year could lead to far more carers breaking down. It is essential that the Government ensures that carers can take breaks and that those providing upwards of 50 hours of care each week get a funded break."
Alongside Carers UK, five other charities support the Government's call, including Age UK, Carers Trust, Motor Neurone Disease Association, Oxfam GB, and Rethink Mental Illness. They are all collectively concerned about carers mental and physical health after survey respondents showed 69% of carers reporting poor mental health and 64% revealing that their physical health has deteriorated.
Due to the fall in support throughout the pandemic, carers have had to put more hours into caring for loved ones, and 72% have not had any breaks from their caring role at all. Of those who did get a break, a third used the time to complete practical tasks or housework and a quarter to attend their own medical appointments.
For carers, a break is time off from caring and a chance to do things they would like to do - everyday things such as catching up with friends, going for a walk, or simply catching up with some sleep. A break could be provided by accessing care services such as replacement care, sitting services, a day service, or through support from family and friends.
After a challenging year providing many hours of care for loved ones during the pandemic, coping with reduced support from health and care services and limited help from family and friends - unpaid carers are seriously worried about the support they will have to help them care in the future.
The charities are calling on the UK Government to provide £1.2 billion funding for unpaid carers' breaks so that those providing upwards of 50 hours of care are able to take time off for their health and well-being.
With 6.5 million carers in the UK, this call to action and awareness campaign for Carer's Week hopes to recognise the vital contribution carers make and raise awareness that they need more support following the pandemic.