Government urged to ensure ‘exhausted’ unpaid carers can take funded breaks, says charity

More than a third of people caring unpaid for family members or friends feel unable to manage their caring role, a survey suggests.

Carers UK said carers are exhausted after caring for loved ones over the course of the pandemic and do not know how they can carry on without a break.

A survey of 2,754 current carers and 96 former carers, carried out by the charity in April, found that fewer than one in five (14%) unpaid carers are confident that the support they receive with caring will continue following the pandemic.

The research found that carers lost, on average, 25 hours of support a month they previously had from services or family and friends before the pandemic.

The survey found 72% of carers have not had any breaks from their caring role at all.

Of those who got a break, a third (33%) used the time to complete practical tasks or housework, and a quarter (26%) to attend their own medical appointments.

Three quarters (74%) reported being exhausted as a result of caring during the pandemic, and 35% said they feel unable to manage their unpaid caring role.

Some 69% of carers responding to the Carers Week survey reported poor mental health, while 64% said their physical health had deteriorated.

Almost two thirds of carers (63%) said they are worried about continuing to care without a break.

The six charities supporting Carers Week – Carers UK, Age UK, Carers Trust, Motor Neurone Disease Association, Oxfam GB and Rethink Mental Illness – are calling on the UK Government to provide £1.2 billion of funding for unpaid carers’ breaks, so that those providing upwards of 50 hours of care are able to take time off for their own health and wellbeing.

On behalf of Carers Week charities, Helen Walker (pictured), chief executive of Carers UK, 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.

“Many are looking to support services to be able to take that time for themselves but are desperately worried that they will not continue in the future.

“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.

“Unpaid carers need hope and support in the future and they must be at the heart of the Government’s plans for social care reform.”

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