Study finds Scots carers facing unmanageable debts
A charity that champions the interests of carers has said many are struggling to cope with spiralling costs and cuts to the support they receive.
Carers Scotland has called for action from the UK and Scottish governments and urgent reform of the financial help available to carers.
The Scottish government said it is providing an additional £9.2m to the Scottish Welfare Fund.
The UK government said it is spending £2bn this year on carer's allowance.
Carers Scotland conducted a year-long investigation into the challenges faced by those looking after loved ones who may be old, disabled or seriously ill.
It found vast numbers of carers were accumulating unmanageable debt, with one in six more than £10,000 in the red.'Urgent reform'
Carers Scotland director Simon Hodgson said: "Those caring, unpaid, for loved ones save society vast sums, but at huge personal cost - a cost this inquiry shows is pushing families to the brink."
The charity's research, called the Caring & Family Finances Inquiry, found carers were struggling to cope with loss of income, savings and benefits alongside rising everyday food, fuel and care related bills.
Key findings were that almost half, 47%, were in debt as a result of caring. A fifth were relying on overdrafts or credit cards to make ends meet, while a third were said to be more than £20,000 worse off as a result of caring.
End Quote Simon Hodgson Carers Scotland
"With an ageing population, more of us will care for loved ones - yet a blizzard of cuts to social care and benefits mean there is less and less support available”
Some 44% admitted to cutting back on essentials like food, while 59% of carers were in fuel poverty, the research found.
The charity claimed that government cuts to support were leaving carers across the UK facing a £1bn cut.
Carers Scotland has called for "urgent reform" and urged the UK and Scottish Governments to make a commitment that future policy will not leave carers worse off, by implementing a "carer" test for future benefits and social care proposals.
Mr Hodgson added: "Caring is often a dual blow, with household incomes hit by reduced earnings and bills rising as a result of the extra costs of ill health or disability.
"With an ageing population, more of us will care for loved ones - yet a blizzard of cuts to social care and benefits mean there is less and less support available.
"This is unacceptable and unsustainable."
A Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) spokeswoman said: "We recognise that carers provide an invaluable service to people in some of the most vulnerable circumstances in our communities.
"That's why we're spending around £2bn this year on carer's allowance, and even more in the future."
A Scottish government spokesman said: "Being a full-time carer for a loved one can be a difficult and isolating experience at times and we must ensure that carers receive the support they deserve.
"Despite Westminster's programme of welfare cuts, we are doing all we can, with our limited powers, to alleviate the burden of poverty. This includes providing an additional £9.2m to the Scottish Welfare Fund."