A carer is anybody who provides unpaid support to a family member, partner or friend who needs help because of their illness, frailty or disability.
Most people will have caring responsibilities at some time in their lives, and will have to face the challenges that these responsibilities bring. Many carers juggle their caring responsibilities with work, study and other family commitments. Some people, particularly younger carers, may chose not to be known as carers, and avoid telling relatives, friends and health and care professionals because of fear of separation, guilt, pride or other personal reason.
New figures released for Carers Week in June 2020 show that an additional 4.5 million people in the UK become unpaid carers as a result of COVOID-19. This brings the total of unpaid carers up from 9.1 million, before the outbreak, to a huge new total of 13.6 million – one in four of all adults. Based on polling carried out by YouGov in May 2020, the research report details this massive increase and the impact on unpaid carers who are providing care to an older, disabled or ill relative or friend.
Carers UK also released ‘Caring Behind Closed Doors: 6 months on’ – a report published in November 2020, based on a survey of almost 6,000 unpaid carers. This survey looked at the impact of caring on carers’ lives over the first 6 months of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Not only has Covid-19 added another estimated 4.5 million new unpaid carers to the 9.1 million carers identified pre-pandemic, it has also increased the amount of care that carers have to give. 81% of carers reported that they were providing more care than pre-pandemic, putting up their caring time from an average of 55 hours a week to 65 hours a week. This increased level of caring responsibility has had a negative effect on carers’ lives, affecting their emotional and physical health, ability to work, and financial situations.
Almost two thirds of carers say that their mental health has worsened as a result of the pandemic with many reporting feeling exhausted and close to breaking point. With winter ahead and the current increase in infections and lockdown measures, this survey shows that many carers have escalating levels of stress and anxiety – not helped by respite care being less available.
Polling carried out just a year ago – in 2019 recorded 8.8 million adult carers in the UK, compared to 6.3 million adult carers recorded in the 2011 Census.
In addition research – conducted by the universities of Birmingham and Sheffield – was highlighted on Carers Rights Day in November 2019 by the Charity Carers UK and claims that two thirds (65%) of all adults can expect to care for a loved one in their lifetime. Women are also likely to be unpaid carers at an earlier age than men – on average in their 50s – causing them to need to juggle caring with other work and family responsibilities. Separate research by the charity Carers UK also highlights the consequences for carers coping without support. In a study of those caring more than 50 hours a week, almost half (49%) reported their finances had been negatively impacted, 52% had suffered poorer physical health and the vast majority (77%) were suffering from stress or anxiety as a result of the impact of caring on the carer.
A recent research paper ‘ Mental health and caregiving experiences of family carers supporting people with psychosis’ – Published online by Cambridge University Press: 08 January 2021 concluded that carers of people with psychosis have poorer mental health than non-carers and recommended that all GP practices add the details of carers for individuals with psychosis to the existing carers or SMI register (DOH,2008,2014) and screen for their wellbeing to aid early identification of support needs.
You may also find the Rethink carers information pages useful.