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Research by The Carers' Centre reveals 8 in 10 unpaid carers suffer in silence

It is estimated that the number of unpaid carers has risen from 9.1 million to 13.6 million since the pandemic, yet the weight on this ‘hidden army’ prevails. This situation is set to worsen following imminent changes to Universal Credit that will see unpaid carers lose £1,000 each year.

The Carers’ Centre has announced the results of a recent survey of over 8,000 respondents into public awareness of the issues affecting unpaid carers across the UK.

Our research sought to examine people’s opinions on the ‘hidden army’ that is unpaid carers, what type of help is available to them, and how best to offer much-needed support.

Key findings from the research includes:

  • 8 in 10 (79 per cent) carers find it hard to ask for help, with a third (34 per cent) never asking for help
  • 77 per cent of carers take on all caring tasks for their loved one single-handedly
  • 56 per cent of respondents are ‘unsure’ (17 per cent) or ‘unconfident’ (39 per cent) they can spot when carers need help
  • 34 per cent of carers don’t ask for help either because they ‘didn’t want to be a burden’ (20 per cent) or didn’t want to be seen as ‘not coping’ (14 per cent)
  • 80 per cent of respondents said there isn’t enough support or financial assistance for carers.  (Carers Allowance is currently £67.60 per week yet the UK’s 13.6million unpaid carers have saved the government the equivalent in care costs of £135billion since March 2020.)
  • 70 per cent of carers and those who know a carer said ‘the pandemic has created more carers.’ (Carers UK found the number of unpaid carers has risen by over 4.5million since the pandemic.)

Deputy CEO of The Carers’ Centre, Janine Woodward-Grant said: “This research demonstrates the huge and unseen burden of work resting on carers’ shoulders and highlights how some carers struggle to ask for help. The findings reiterate the great need for more support and funding for carers, particularly since the pandemic.  

“We hope our research will raise awareness of the challenges faced by unpaid carers and encourage local people to help carers in the community, as well as help them to seek out support.

“Becoming a carer can be isolating, stressful and exhausting. Unless you’ve been an unpaid carer, you really don’t have any idea of the burden they take on. There is no off-switch.

“There is no going home at the end of the day. There is no holiday. This is your life, day in and day out for no pay and very often, no recognition.

“The Carers’ Centre provides support, advice and respite to help carers manage their caring role, so we’re glad that this research helps shine a light on their hard work and makes people aware of what a demanding role caring can be.” 

The research looked into the impact the pandemic had on the number of people caring, revealing 70 per cent of unpaid carers and those who know a carer agreed there was an increase. In fact, Carers UK estimates there are 4.5 million more individuals caring since the beginning of the pandemic, equating to approximately 13.6 million carers today.

Fiona Carr, who cares for her husband John and is supported by The Carers’ Centre, said: “The research finding that struck me most was that 79 per cent of carers ‘found it hard to ask for help’ which is troubling and it’s worrying that barriers to carers asking for help were ‘they didn’t want to be a burden’ or ‘they didn’t want to appear not to be coping.’ 

“Personally, I think asking for help is not giving up, it’s actually refusing to give up by getting the help you need to continue caring to the best of your ability. I also agreed with the research findings on carers needing more financial assistance as the Carers Allowance is only £67.60 per week – which works out at £2 per hour - yet carers save the government more than the annual budget for the NHS every year.

“The Carers’ Centre has been a lifeline for me and my husband since his stroke in 2014. They have been there to support me every step of the way these past years. They helped me cope but also invited me into a wonderful community of carers who understand the challenges and have allowed me to be myself. For most of my life I am John’s carer, but when I’m at the Centre I am Fiona again.”

James Carlin, Director of 3SG and recent winner of three Bath Life Awards said: “This research by The Carers’ Centre highlights crucial issues on the hidden burden faced by unpaid carers which are very close to my heart. 

“During the pandemic we’ve seen an unprecedented increase in community spirit and volunteers stepping up to help support carers and their loved ones. However, the tsunami of problems linked to social care provision, isolation and loneliness exposed by the first lockdown have not gone away.

“Many unpaid carers and families continue to struggle to access basic care services, food and medical support for their loved ones as their usual support networks have been reduced or disrupted due to COVID-19 restrictions or shielding.”