Reduced services see unpaid carers pushed to the limit

Carers UK has claimed that family carers are going without crucial services, whilst providing many hours of additional care for loved ones with increasing needs.

Research by the charity has found that 81 per cent of carers are still providing more care than before the lockdown, with nearly two thirds of that number unsure how they will continue to manage over winter.

Carers UK says that this uncertainty and concern comes at a critical point in the coronavirus pandemic when more restrictions are being put in place, and many expect life to become more difficult over the winter months.

The survey of nearly 6,000 carers found that 40 per cent said they are providing more care because the needs of the person they look after have increased. Many cited the detrimental impact of the national lockdown on their relatives’ physical and mental health. A similar proportion of family carers are providing more care because their local services have been significantly reduced or closed. New infection and control restrictions mean most day services are operating at a reduced capacity and some have not opened at all.

Helen Walker, chief executive of Carers UK, said: “The majority of carers have only known worry and exhaustion throughout this pandemic. They continue to provide extraordinary hours of care, without the usual help from family and friends and with limited or no support from local services. It’s no surprise that carers’ physical and mental health is suffering, badly. I am deeply concerned that so many carers are on the brink and desperately worried about how they will manage during the next wave of the pandemic. Government must prioritise carers in its plans, carry out an urgent review of breaks’ services and ensure that wider social care services have enough funding to manage over winter. We strongly urge local authorities to use the Infection Control Fund to help reinstate crucial day and support services that carers really need.”

The survey showed that 58 per cent of carers had seen their physical health impacted by caring through the pandemic, while 64 per cent said their mental health has worsened.          

Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Our care system could not survive without the contribution of unpaid carers, who provide vital support for thousands of people every day. Councils fully recognise their crucial role and assess and support hundreds of thousands of carers every year, but could do even more with the right resources.

“Every part of the care and support sector is under intense pressure due to the current crisis and councils are doing all they can to support carers and those they care for through this. We know that caring can place a real strain on carers – emotionally, physically and financially. The pandemic has further highlighted the incredibly valuable role played by unpaid carers and the difficult circumstances they face.

“The government must use its upcoming Spending Review to urgently provide councils with the extra funding they need to help support unpaid carers as well as people who use services ahead of winter and the second wave of Covid-19, while also using this as the basis for future reform of social care and support to place it on a long-term, sustainable footing.”