Over one in five unpaid carers (21%) are worried they may not cope financially over the next 12 months, reveals new research from the charity Carers UK. This is on top of deep concern about practical support where just 13% of carers are confident they will get the practical support they need in the next 12 months.
A survey of over 8,000 people currently caring unpaid for family or friends, the majority of whom provide well over 50 hours of care every week, reveals the huge personal and financial cost of caring for a loved one. Nearly one in four carers (23%) do not have enough money to cover their monthly expenses. Many carers are worrying about how they will cope this winter face rising energy prices and increases in the cost of living.
As well as providing significant levels of care themselves, almost two thirds (63%) of carers are also using their own income or savings to cover the cost of care, equipment or products for the person they care for. On average carers spend an estimated £1,370 a year on services or equipment for the person they care for.
The situation has got worse during the pandemic with over one in three carers (36%) saying that their financial situation has worsened since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and a quarter (25%) are spending more on equipment or products for the person they care for.
As a result many are struggling financially and unable to save for their own retirement. Almost two-thirds of carers (65%) say they are worried about their ability to save and plan for the future.
The financial strain is also damaging carers’ mental health with over half (52%) reporting they feel anxious or stressed about their finances, and over one in three carers (35%) providing more than 35 hours of care a week said they have been or are in debt.
Carers are still having to take on more hours of care for the person they care for, with 55% of carers having reduced or no access to day services and a third of carers reporting reduced or no access to paid care workers.
Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said:
“We are seeing unprecedented levels of stress where financial worry is piling yet more pressure on carers. With low levels of services, carers are going to be facing an extremely difficult winter with the rising costs of living, increased energy prices, a social care staffing crisis and a chronically underfunded system.
For years carers have been propping up our health and care system at a huge cost to their own personal health, finances and ability to stay in work. Throughout the pandemic they carried a huge load, with 81% taking on more care for relatives and 72% unable to take any breaks at all from their caring role. They desperately need support to regain quality of life and enable them to continue caring. The Government must recognise the toll being placed on unpaid carers and ensure that social care reform delivers for carers.
As it stands, providing unpaid care is pushing thousands of families into poverty and will have a lasting impact on their finances and quality of life. Carer’s Allowance the lowest benefit of its kind must be reviewed. The Earning Threshold of Carer’s Allowance must be increased to ensure that carers are able to choose to work and are protected from financial hardship.”
Carers UK estimates the number of unpaid carers increased by 4.5 million at the height of the pandemic to 13.6 million. Unpaid carers saved the UK economy £193 billion a year during the pandemic.
Carers UK is urging the government to urgently put in place the financial and practical support that carers need. The Government planned social care reform must deliver for carers ensuring they are able to access breaks from their caring role and rely on quality service to enable them to have a life outside of caring. It must also recognise and reduce the costs associated with caring.
Too many carers face a financial penalty for caring, the Government must review carers benefits and support as part of social care reform.