UK

Unpaid carers in England 'struggling', report says

Carer holding hands with an elderly person

Unpaid carers in England are struggling to get the support they need despite new laws introduced to help them, a report by charity Carers UK says.

The Care Act was introduced in England last year to provide better support for those needing care and those who provide it unpaid.

But Carers UK says many carers are still waiting too long for an assessment of their needs.

The government said the new rights for carers were "not yet fully embedded".

But social care minister Alistair Burt said unpaid carers made an invaluable contribution to society, and the government would work with councillors to ensure that good practice was adopted more widely.

The report by Carers UK says the new law has not yet delivered the promised improvements.

A total of 6,149 carers and former carers responded to Carers UK's annual survey earlier this year. Only responses from the 3,076 people currently caring for a family member or friend in England were included in the report.

Carers are entitled to an assessment of their needs, but the charity's survey suggests almost a third of those who had an assessment had to wait more than six months to get it.

It also says 54% of those responding to the online survey expected their quality of life to get worse in the next year - compared with 50% before the changes were brought in.

Survey results

Of carers who received an assessment in the past year:

  • 68% felt their need to have regular breaks from caring was either not considered or not thoroughly considered
  • 35% felt support to look after their own health was thoroughly considered
  • 74% did not feel the support needed to juggle care with work was sufficiently considered
  • 21% said they received little or no helpful information or advice, and felt they did not know where to go for support with caring

Helena Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK, said while the Care Act is a powerful piece of legislation, more needed to be done.

She added: "If the Care Act is to deliver on its promise to improve support for carers, the government must set-out a clear expectation of when carer's assessments should be carried out, alongside investment in the care and support services that are desperately needed to backup families.

"Caring is not an issue that we, as a society, can afford to ignore. After all, caring will touch each and every one of our lives - whether we provide care for a loved one or need care ourselves."

Mr Burt, the minister for community and social care, said that while the Care Act introduced significant new rights for carers, they were not yet fully embedded.

"That is why we are working hard with the sector to support and challenge Local Authorities and share the great practice that already exists," he said.

"We want to do all we can to support carers through our new Carers Strategy and I urge everyone with caring responsibilities to respond to our call for evidence."

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