Call to assess health of millions of unpaid carers to prevent system ‘collapse’

Millions of unpaid carers are putting their own health at risk to look after loved ones, council leaders have warned.

The Local Government Association (LGA) and charity Carers UK said many of the 5.7 million people looking after family or friends in England were unable to take a break from their roles, potentially causing their health to suffer.

In a plea to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, the council chiefs urged him to include funding for assessments of carers in the forthcoming green paper on social care, warning that the system would “collapse” without their unpaid work.

The LGA estimates it would cost £150 million to provide these assessments to identify their needs.

It argues this is more cost-effective than having to pay long-term costs for social care and emergency hospital care.

Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the LGA’s community wellbeing board, said: “Unpaid carers are the backbone of the care system, many of whom are unable to take a break, putting their own health on the line.

“Without these unsung heroes the system would collapse.

“But this vital network of family carers is at an increasing risk of breaking down due to the nature of the job, rising costs and demands for care, and the crisis in adult social care funding.”

He warned there is a £3.5 billion funding gap facing adult social care by 2025 just to maintain existing standards.

“We cannot duck this issue as a society any longer,” he said.

Emily Holzhausen (pictured), director of policy at Carers UK, said: “Everyone needs a break and time to recharge their batteries.

“Not only is this a basic right, but the health impacts for carers are significant. It’s a false economy in the long term not to invest in breaks.”

A survey of more than 5,000 carers in England published earlier this year indicated 72% had suffered mental ill health and 61% physical ill health as a result of their caring duties.

Around one in five carers said they had not had their needs assessed in the past year.

The Government’s green paper on social care in England is due to be published at some point in the autumn.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Carers make an invaluable contribution to society by selflessly caring for their loved ones, but this must not be at the expense of their own health and happiness.

“We are already looking at how to improve carers’ access to breaks and respite care and our forthcoming green paper will look at long-term sustainable solutions for the social care system.”

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