Accordingly to new research, the UK had 600,000 more unpaid carers in 2013 than it did in 2001. Many of these carers are ‘hidden’, which means they may not recognise themselves as a carer or may not be recognised by external bodies as a carer. This means that they are much less likely to receive the help and support they desperately need.
The newly passed Care Act, which will come into force in May 2015, could help to change that. With the ageing population on the rise and local social funds being cut, there is expected to be more pressure than ever on carers of all ages that look after a family member or relative full-time. The Care Act will entitle all carers to an assessment of their needs so they don’t have to ask for one, and will help governing bodies determine how much help – both financial and other – they might need.
The Act will also focus on the welfare of the person providing the care – whether or not they themselves have support needs; whether these are being met or whether they might have these needs in the future.
The type of support available will vary depending on individual needs and circumstances, ranging from practical help at home, to financial help in the form of £61.35 in carer’s allowance per week. However, this is currently means-tested, so there is no guarantee a carer will qualify. And there is also no indication yet of whether the Care Act will mean an increase in the amount of care’s allowance provided.
For full-time carers, life can be a long haul of misery, guilt, frustration, tedium, exhaustion and confusion. As well as needing to give up their day job or reduce hours thus losing much-needed income (as is the case of many), a carer’s personal life is also affected. This lifetime commitment is also a huge strain on their emotional health and their physical health suffers too. As for a social life…such a thing is usually out of the question.
Another challenge for stay-at-home carers is that, besides receiving little or no financial help, they cannot access the resources required to look for help or check what services they are entitled to. For those who are not ‘digitally literate’, professionals in the field have a greater responsibility to explain the ways a carer can access crucial information.
In a recent survey, a huge 49 percent of carers said they believed that society “didn’t care about them at all”.
It’s time that the public, the government and medical organisations started waking up to the plight one of society’s most overlooked vulnerable groups.