One in four unpaid carers has not had a day off in five years, with many people being pushed into mental and physical ill health themselves as a result, a major survey has found.
Carers are reaching “breaking point” as they struggle to take even one day off for years at a time, research by Carers UK has found. Seven thousand carers nationwide participated in a survey carried out by the charity.
Overall, 40 per cent of unpaid carers have not had a break in over a year, while 25 per cent have not had a single day away from caring in five years. This figure rises to one in three when the answers of long-term carers only are taken into account.
Nearly nine out of 10 (87 per cent) of carers struggle to get any form of respite from their responsibilities, according to the findings, published on Tuesday in the 2017 Carers UK “State of Caring” report.
The charity pointed to the “catastrophic impact” of giving constant care 365 days a year. Carers who had not had a break in a year or more reported a deterioration in their health, both mentally (73 per cent) and physically (65 per cent).
Heléna Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK, urged the Government to improve support for carers, warning: “Without access to breaks, carers can quickly reach breaking point”.
She said: “Carers are struggling to get a break because appropriate support for their loved ones isn’t available or services they rely on are being cut or charged for.”
Some 6.5 million people in the UK provide unpaid care by looking after an ill, older or disabled family member, friend or partner, and 1.4 million people provide over 50 hours of unpaid care per week.
Surviving on a pittance
But while the UK’s unpaid carers save the economy an estimated £56.9bn per year, according to the ONS, they are entitled to just £62.70 per week Carer’s Allowance for a minimum of 35 hours work – the equivalent of £1.79 per hour.
Almost half (48 per cent) of carers responding to the survey reported living on a household income of less than £1,500 per month.
“The Government has no understanding that so many carers have to use up all their savings and investments just to make ends meet,” said one respondent.
“Carers are saving them millions and millions of pounds in caring for their loved ones, yet struggle to even receive a mere pittance [of benefits].”
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: “We are committed to improving social care, which is why we will consult later this year and put it on a stable footing for the future.”
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