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Published: 21 February 2013

Carers need help

Figures show that more than one million people spend 50 hours a week providing unpaid care according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Of the 5.8 million who look after family members and friends, 1.4 million people provide more than 50 hours a week of free care.

A survey carried out by Epilepsy Society in 2011 showed that carers looking after someone with epilepsy often neglect their own health needs to care for a loved one.

Unpredictability of seizures

The unpredictability of the condition and the fact that the need for care can change over time all contribute to the physical, mental and emotional stress of caring for someone with the UK’s most common serious neurological condition.

Speaking about the ONS figures, TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Britain's growing army of unpaid carers, the vast majority of whom are women, provide an invaluable service to society.

"But despite being worth around GBP340 billion a year, unpaid care is still not given the recognition it deserves from either Government or employers.

"Far too many women are forced to trade down or even quit jobs when they take on caring responsibilities. Not enough employers truly embrace flexible working, despite the benefits it holds for staff and the business.

Carers Report

Epilepsy Society’s Carers Report, published in January 2012, looked specifically at the needs of carers. Yet nearly half said they would not consider finding out about respite care to give themselves a break.

Epilepsy Society’s communications manager Amanda Cleaver said:  “It was interesting to note that many of the respondents used negative words such as ‘stressed’, tired’, ‘undervalued’ and ‘restricted’. Many comments reflected the very complex nature of caring for someone with epilepsy. There was also felt to be a lack of knowledge and understanding about epilepsy amongst the services set up to help and support carers, such as social care and respite services. Carers need to feel confident that these services are providing appropriate and personalised expert care.”

Long-term health condition

Helena Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK, said: "Family life is changing as a result of our ageing population and the fact that people are living longer with disability and long-term ill-health.

"Too often the costs and pressures of caring for older or disabled loved ones can force families to give up work to care and lead to debt, poor health and isolation. In addition, as more families need help to care, social care support and disability benefits are being cut. This risks putting even more pressure on families, many of whom are already struggling to cope.

Read Epilepsy Society’s  'connecting with carers' (pdf)