When we have a loved one or family member with a disability or who develops a long-term illness, many of us face important decisions about their care. In the UK one in ten people provides care to someone and this figure is rising and three in five people will be carers at some point in their lives in the UK.
Many of the UK’s caring community are unpaid family members and their contribution to the economy is estimated to be £132bn a year. That’s more than the Creative Industries in the UK (£130bn) or the Hospitality Sector (£100bn).
Sometimes sadly, the responsibility of care-giving falls on the shoulders of those themselves that need care. Oftentimes elderly or infirm themselves, or even more shockingly they are children caring for a parent. Only half of young carers have a particular person in school who recognises that they are a carer and helps them. Often these young carers have to miss or cut short school days because of their caring role. Sadly, 68% of young carers are bullied in schools.
Many services are only funded to work with young carers up to the age of 18 and often young carers are worried about moving on as they feel there is no support for them.
Young adult carers aged between 16 and 18 years are twice as likely to be not in education, employment, or training. Based on Census figures there are estimated to be at least 376,000 young adult carers in the UK aged 16–25. Being a carer has significant health effects on the carer themselves and 45% of young adult carers report to have mental health problems.
One in five people aged 50–64 are carers in the UK and 65% of older carers (aged 60–94) have long-term health problems or a disability themselves, many stating that being a carer has an adverse effect on their own health.
One third of older carers say they have cancelled treatment or an operation for themselves because of their caring responsibilities.
There are 4.27 million carers of working age living in the UK; 2.44 million (57%) of these are women and 1.83 million (43%) are men. Over half of those who are not working say that they want to do so. Nearly one in eight workers is a carer and one in five carers gives up employment to care.
Over half of carers have borrowed money to enable them to provide care and almost two thirds of carers have used all of their savings to cover the costs of caring.
In a survey, 35% of carers had missed out on state benefits because they didn’t realise they were entitled to it.
It is clear from the experiences of carers that much more needs to be done to provide fit-for-purpose and easily accessible social care and respite services. Caring can be a lonely endeavour and supporting those that care should be of utmost importance.
For more information and support networks for carers visit: www.carers.org