Last week (June 6th) marked Carers Week 2022. While you may not have heard of it, this annual campaign does wonders for raising awareness of the responsibilities associated with caring, highlighting the challenges unpaid carers face and acknowledging the impactful contributions these individuals make within families and the broader community.
In the UK alone, there is an estimated 4.2 million informal carers; equating to 6% of the population. And with many more individuals not identifying themselves as having caring responsibilities, taking the support they provide as just another daily duty, the number is likely to be significantly higher.
These individuals dedicate their time to supporting their family and friends in so many ways, for no pay and often little recognition. Carers can support their loved ones with nearly any element of their life; from helping individuals with mental health issues, and assisting with daily tasks and chores, to physically supporting people to function (helping feed, clean and transport the individuals in need).
Often a focus is put on the recipient of care, to the absence of consideration for the loved ones providing the support. While governments are starting to offer elements of assistance for carers – through Carers Allowance and Carers Credit – institutions and employers still need to do more to recognise the toll caring responsibilities have on individuals and actively support them.
According to the New Policy Institute, 1.2 million carers in the UK are currently living in poverty. This is a huge problem. Carers, and the difficulties they experience, whether due to their responsibilities or other, are valid and more needs to be done to support these people – financial and otherwise. With the work they do, providing support, saving the economy £132 billion a year, why are they seeing such little financial aid and why is there a lack of funding being put into support services?
The emotional, psychological and physical pressure of caring for someone is also often forgotten. As it stands, 72% of carers responding to Carer UK’s State of Caring Survey 2018, report they have suffered with their mental health as a result of their caring responsibilities. While it is challenging for anyone to support an individual, it can feel even harder to watch a person you love struggle and require care.
Beyond this, the prioritisation of others needs can take a big toll on carers themselves, with 81% reporting they have felt lonely or socially isolated because of their caring responsibilities. Carers have reported that they find it difficult to talk about their role with their friends and family, and can struggle to find the time to do social activities because of the care they provide. It can be incredibly difficult for individuals who provide care to juggle their responsibilities.
While there is much that still needs to be done to build awareness of the impact of caring at a community and institutional level – in order to develop real support structures for these individuals – there are some amazing charities and organisation out there that provide assistance to carers. Organisations such as CarersUK and Carers Trust provide spaces to talk, resources to help manage stress, and offer reminders to just pause for a moment.