Damaging life chances of Wales’s carers

The life chances of many of the 370,000 people in Wales who care, unpaid, for a disabled, older or ill family member or friend, are being damaged by inadequate support from local services and communities, according to new research launched  for Carers Week 2016.

What’s more, when carers face a lack of understanding about their caring role from the overall community,2 the negative impact on their health, wellbeing, relationships and finances is exacerbated.

Three-quarters of carers (72%) with some of the most intensive caring responsibilities say their community does not understand or value their caring role, resulting in high numbers of carers struggling to balance other areas of their lives alongside caring.

One carer said:

“As a carer attempting to get understanding, advice, support and emergency care from the ‘community’ – such as GP, public transport, social services, dentist pharmacies and hospitals – it can be very challenging, exhausting and beyond stressful.”

Mixed support from local services means that the majority of carers are facing barriers to maintaining their health, balancing work and care, and balancing education and care [3], which is having a markedly negatively impact on their life chances:

  • Two-third of carers (66%) have given up work or reduced their hours to care
  • Half of carers (52%) have struggled financially
  • Half of carers (52%) have let a health problem go untreated
  • 1 in 3 carers (30%) only get help when it’s an emergency
  • Almost half of carers (48%) said their mental health has got worse

One carer said:

"I find my care needs pushed further and further away until they break down completely and become an emergency. Last time this happened, I was in hospital for 10 days."

The Carers Week research shows that when carers are supported by their community, they face far fewer barriers to having a life outside of their caring role:4

  • Carers who are supported by their communities are more than twice as likely to always be able to maintain a healthy lifestyle
  • Carers who are supported by their communities are three times more likely to always be able to maintain relationships with close friends and family

Keith Bowen, who leads the Carers Week partnership in Wales, said:

“Carers have told us that it makes a huge difference to their lives when they are supported by their local services and communities; whether that’s being offered a flexible appointment to see their GP, having flexible working policies from their employers, or their school raising awareness of caring and disability.

“Despite this, the majority of carers told us that their local community was not supportive of their caring role, which in turn is having a significant and negatively impact on their life chances. These findings are particularly concerning given the emphasis placed on community support and resources in the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014 which came into force in April this year. It will be vital for local authorities to boost the capacity of local communities to support carers in their vital role.

“With this in mind, we’re calling on individuals, organisations and the Assembly to think about what they can do to improve the lives of carers in Welsh communities.”

The six charities driving Carers Week are calling for adequate funding for social care support to be prioritised by the newly elected Welsh Assembly.

Carers Week 2016 is made possible by Carers Wales joining forces with Age Cymru, Carers Trust Wales, Macmillan Cancer Support in Wales, Motor Neurone Disease Association and MS Society Cymru. 

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