40% of unpaid carers face financial difficulties, new research found

Analysis by the Health Foundation think tank has revealed the high personal and financial cost shouldered by unpaid carers, with one in five feeling socially isolated and two in five reporting financial difficulties because of their caring role.

Although carers have a right to an assessment to see whether they are entitled to financial support from their local authority, only a small number actually seek help.

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In 2021, only 8% of carers in England applied for financial support from their local authority and, of those who did, only one in four – 2% of the total number of carers – ended up receiving support.

The Health Foundation report suggests that the reasons why carers don’t apply for support are complex and varied. While some are able to cope without financial support or may not be eligible, many others who may qualify for help are deterred by the assessment process or may not be aware of the support available.

More than five million people in England and Wales – 9% of the population aged five and older – currently provide unpaid care. The analysis found that:

  • Four in 10 carers under retirement age are not able to work as much as they could due to their caring role
  • Carers providing more than 20 hours of care a week are much more likely to live in lower-income households than non-carers
  • Caring responsibilities differ by age and gender – 60% of carers are older than 50 and 60% are women
  • Younger adults tend to care for parents, whereas people later in life tend to care for partners.

The Health Foundation said its findings highlighted the need for better data to help local authorities identify unpaid carers, understand their support needs and deliver more targeted support. The government’s draft roadmap for transforming adult social care data, published in February 2023, sets out proposals for improving social care data but will require additional resources for local services to implement it.

Charles Tallack, Director of Data Analytics at the Health Foundation, said: ‘Despite the important role unpaid carers play in our society, their contribution is largely unrecognised and unsupported. Caring has a huge impact on someone’s life and extra financial support can make all the difference by helping carers to live healthy lives, access breaks, and balance caring with other responsibilities.

‘The government must take urgent action to tackle shortages of paid staff and deliver fundamental reform of social care, so unpaid carers are better supported and not left to pick up the pieces from a failing system.’

Image: Kelly Sikkema


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