Unpaid carers looking after vulnerable relatives during the pandemic are worried about how they will cope through further lockdowns or local restrictions.
A new report from Carers UK found that 38% are providing more care because their local services have been significantly reduced or closed.
A similar proportion of family carers (40%) of informal carers are providing more care because the needs of the person they look after have increased.
This increased pressure has left 74% of carers exhausted and worn out, with two thirds (64%) telling Carers UK that they hadn’t been able to take any breaks in the last six months.
As a result, two thirds (67%) are fearful that they won’t be able to cope if further lockdowns and restrictions are put in place, according to the survey, conducted on 5,904 carers in September.
Helen Walker, chief executive of Carers UK, said: “The majority of carers have only known worry and exhaustion throughout this pandemic. They continue to provide extraordinary hours of care, without the usual help from family and friends and with limited or no support from local services.
“It’s no surprise that carers’ physical and mental health is suffering, badly. I am deeply concerned that so many carers are on the brink and desperately worried about how they will manage during the next wave of the pandemic.”
Carers UK is urging the government to prioritise carers in its plans, carry out an urgent review of breaks’ services and ensure that wider social care service have enough funding to manage over the winter.
“We strongly urge local authorities to use the Infection Control Fund to help reinstate crucial day and support services that carers really need,” said Walker.
The survey showed that 58% of carers had seen their physical health impacted by caring through the pandemic, while 64% said their mental health has worsened.
Walker added: “It is not just about ensuring that carers don’t break down over the winter. Carers deserve a New Deal that recognises everything they are contributing through this pandemic and builds in the support they need over the medium and longer term. The Government’s social care reform must ‘level up’ the lives of unpaid carers too, who have struggled through this crisis.”
Carers UK is also calling on the government to ensure that those receiving Carer’s Allowance – the main benefit for people caring 35 hours or more every week – receive an equivalent payment increase to those receiving Universal Credit, £20 a week, to help cover the extra costs that caring will inevitably incur over the winter months.
The charity wants to see the government set out plans for a long-term, sustainable, solution to funding social care that recognises the contribution of unpaid carers and has specific measures to support them at its heart.