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Published: 10June 2013

Carers let down by lack of support

Carers are being woefully let down by a lack of support, new research suggests. The report, Prepared to Care?, produced by the awareness campaign Carers Week, also outlines the huge emotional, physical and financial effects that caring can have.

A study of more than 2,100 carers shows:

  • 75 per cent were unprepared for all aspects of the role
  • 81 per cent  were not aware of the available help
  • 61per cent  experienced depression
  • 35 per cent believed they were given the wrong advice about support on offer
  • 92 per cent  said they felt more stressed because of their caring role.

With around 6.5 million carers in the UK - and 6,000 people taking on a new caring role every day - charities within the Carers Week partnership are calling for the Government, GPs and health and social care professionals to ensure that more support is given to carers from day one of their caring role.

Caring for people with epilepsy

It is an issue which also concerns Epilepsy Society. Connecting with carers, a report produced by the charity in 2012 highlighted that the needs of carers of people with epilepsy were being completely underestimated.The report, funded by the Department of Health, was the first to address why caring for someone with epilepsy is different to caring for people with other long term conditions.

Graham Faulkner, chief executive of Epilepsy Society said:  'What became clear from our research is that epilepsy is a condition that poses unique challenges to carers.'

Epilepsy Society's report Connecting with Carers focuses on the needs - and experiences - of carers of people with epilepsy in the UK.

New carers faced everyday challenges

Helen Clarke, Carers Week manager, said: 'The impact of caring for a loved one or friend is an issue that we simply cannot ignore.

'Every day across the country, 6,000 people take on new caring responsibilities and too often they face the challenges of caring without support.

'Becoming a carer can happen overnight and without information and guidance, carers can be left feeling isolated and alone.

'The figures clearly show that carers aren't being offered support and if they are, it can often be wrong or not the full information.

'The consequences for carers are huge, so it's vital that GPs, health and social care professionals and the Government all play a role to ensure that carers are offered the support they deserve from day one.'

Work and caring

The Prepared to Care? survey shows that carers often struggle to balance work and their caring responsibilities, with 45 per cent of carers saying they had to give up work.

Findings also emphasised the strain that caring can put on people's relationships, with 52 per cent having experienced difficulties in their relationship with their partner and 61per cent have found it difficult to maintain friendships.

Carers called for:

  • better public understanding and recognition of carers
  • access to information and the right support from the beginning
  • professionals understanding the role of carers and sharing information, decision making and planning with them
  • access to high quality practical and emotional support and information as well as breaks from caring.
  • flexible working practices and understanding from employers
  • financial support and a fair and easy to navigate welfare system.

Government Care Bill

A Department of Health spokesman said: 'Carers make an invaluable contribution to society, and we want to do all we can to support them.

'Under the new Care Bill, we are proposing to give carers the same legal right to support as the people they look after, with extended rights to an assessment, and the first ever right to support of eligible needs from their local authority.

'Plans for new legislation will improve their access to information and advice.

'We have also provided £1.5million over the period 2011 - 2013 to a range of voluntary organisations to raise awareness of the needs of carers, and help make sure they are supported in the best way possible.'