Nearly two thirds of UK carers have expressed concerns about how they will continue to manage over winter as support from local services is likely to be further reduced as more restrictions are put in place.
New research from Carers UK found that family carers are already going without crucial services, whilst providing many hours of additional care for loved ones with increasing needs.
Previous research by the charity in April showed the majority of unpaid carers immediately took on more care for their older, disabled or seriously ill relatives through the lockdown. Six months later, four in five carers (81%) report that they are still providing more care than before the lockdown.
In a survey of nearly 6,000 carers, two in five (40%) said they are providing more care because the needs of the person they look after have increased. Many cited the detrimental impact of the national lockdown on their relatives’ physical and mental health.
The mental health of carers has worsened during the pandemic
A similar proportion of family carers (38%) are providing more care because their local services have been significantly reduced or closed. Covid-19 infection and control restrictions mean most day services are operating at a reduced capacity and some have not opened at all.
Three quarters of carers (74%) said they are exhausted and worn out as a result of caring during the pandemic. Two thirds (64%) told Carers UK they hadn’t been able to take any breaks whatsoever in the last six months.
Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: “The majority of carers have only known worry and exhaustion throughout this pandemic. They continue to provide extraordinary hours of care, without the usual help from family and friends and with limited or no support from local services.
“It’s no surprise that carers’ physical and mental health is suffering, badly. I am deeply concerned that so many carers are on the brink and desperately worried about how they will manage during the next wave of the pandemic. Government must prioritise carers in its plans, carry out an urgent review of breaks’ services and ensure that wider social care services have enough funding to manage over winter. We strongly urge local authorities to use the Infection Control Fund to help reinstate crucial day and support services that carers really need.”
The survey showed that 58% of carers had seen their physical health impacted by caring through the pandemic, while 64% said their mental health has worsened.
Carers UK is also calling on the Government to ensure that those receiving Carer's Allowance – the main benefit for people caring 35 hours or more every week - receive an equivalent payment increase to those receiving Universal Credit, £20 a week, to help cover the extra costs that caring will inevitably incur over the winter months.
The charity wants to see the Government set out plans for a long term, sustainable, solution to funding social care that recognises the enormous contribution of unpaid carers and has specific measures to support them at its heart.