The results of a survey from the Carers Trust released today reveals that almost half the UK’s estimated 7 million unpaid family carers aren’t getting the support they need to get by, while 41% say the hours they spend caring have soared over the past year. A lack of support is particularly acute for ethnic minority carers.
The main findings include:
Only 55% of all unpaid carers get the support they need to be an unpaid carer
Unpaid carers from the most vulnerable groups – older people, LBG+ carers, those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic and lower socio-economic communities and women carers – receiving least help
41% say caring hours have increased over last year with one-in-eight caring for an extra 50 hours a week or more
Unpaid carers are exhausted but more than two thirds (68%) are unable to get a respite break from their caring role when needed
Broken social care system means carers spend more time caring for relatives
The survey of 3,430 unpaid carers from across the UK lays bare how an under-funded and broken social care system is placing unsustainable pressure on unpaid carers who are experiencing significant increases in the amount of time they need to care for sick and disabled relatives.
One in eight carers (12%) said that, over the last year, the average amount of time they spend caring each week had risen by more than 50 hours. An additional one third (36%) of carers said they had experienced an equivalent rise of 20-49 hours per week in their caring role.
Carers from ethnic minority communities find it harder to access support
Even more significantly, the survey highlighted alarming inequalities between different groups of carers as to the level of support they are able to access. Unpaid carers from ethnic minority communities reported greater difficulty in finding and accessing support.
The survey showed that, while only 55% of all carers feel they are getting enough support, support levels drop further among older people, those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and women.
Higher proportions of people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities also faced additional barriers in accessing help.
Unpaid carers aged 50-65 felt most strongly that they do not get enough support to be an unpaid carer (73%) while 58% of over-65s felt the same way. Among those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, 64% said they don’t get adequate support compared to just 11% of those from the most wealthy backgrounds.
Just 16% of those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities said they had been signposted to support by their local authority, compared to 31% of white carers, and only 6% had received support from councils.
And 58% of females, who make up the majority of unpaid carers in the UK, said they don’t receive sufficient support, compared to only 27% of male carers experiencing the same lack of support.
Limited signposting to support from councils and health services
Many of those surveyed said they were not directed to support by councils, health services or other organisations and instead had to find out about available help themselves, suggesting a system that isn’t working for them. Carers Trust is calling for the commissioning of more specialist programmes to identify, hear from and support underrepresented groups of carers.
Jabeer Butt, Race Equality Foundation Chief Executive said:
“These are stark findings from the Carers Trust, which acutely highlight the lack of support for family carers. Too many Black, Asian and minority ethnic carers find it harder to get support for themselves and they are unaware of how to receive support as unpaid carers.
“National and local government and wider professionals must ensure the specific needs of unpaid carers from diverse demographic groups are understood and met. An intersectional approach to support services should be prioritised to ensure more inclusive and accessible support. This should include better training for staff and an improved collection of good-quality demographic data.
“Support services need to make connections between carer organisations, organisations representing people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups, and local statutory partners must be encouraged and facilitated to promote the development of services which have a better approach to inclusion.”
A separate survey from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) earlier this year showed burnout as the number one reason why unpaid care breaks down. Carers Trust’s survey shows how they struggle to get respite, with only 32% of unpaid carers saying they can access a break when they need one.
Meanwhile, more than a third (36%) of unpaid carers don’t think the NHS understands their caring responsibilities and gives them appropriate support.
Carer’s Allowance insufficient and needs a complete overhaul
Carer’s Allowance is the main benefit for unpaid carers but only 38% said it was enough to make a meaningful difference to them. At just £76.75 a week in England and Wales, Carer’s Allowance is the lowest benefit of its kind and its strict eligibility criteria – claimants must earn £139 a week or less after tax and must be spending a minimum of 35 hours a week caring for someone – actively discourages full-time work. As part of its recommendations, Carers Trust is calling for the benefit to be completely overhauled.