A shortage in care services is putting the health, wellbeing and livelihoods of unpaid carers at risk, according to research by Carers UK.
It found that more than half of unpaid carers (55%) who use day services reported reduced or no access compared to before the coronavirus pandemic.
Only 10% of carers are confident of getting sufficient respite care and 13% are confident they will get enough practical support in the next 12 months.
The early findings are from the charity’s State of Caring report, which surveyed 8,119 unpaid carers between August and September and will be published in full next month.
It found that 9% of unpaid carers in paid employment said they will have to reduce their working hours without affordable and accessible care to support them.
More than one in 10 (11%) said they would be at risk of giving up their work without this.
And 10% said they need services they previously relied on to return otherwise they will have to reduce their working hours (4%) or be at risk of giving up their job (6%).
One carer told researchers: “It is impossible to find a paid carer worker to look after my adult daughter between 3pm-6pm, which would allow me to continue work in the NHS. It is a constant juggle.”
Helen Walker, Carers UK chief executive, said the Government must invest in unpaid carers in the autumn spending review or the country risks “sleepwalking into a new social care crisis”.
She said: “Unpaid carers have been ignored and put under enormous pressure for years but we are at a crossroads where without adequate funding for social care now, carers will be pushed over the edge.
“As any additional social care funding will not start this winter, carers could be facing a difficult future.
“They will not be able to cope if we go on like this and the social care system they prop up would collapse without the care they provide.”
The charity is calling for an immediate funding boost to help services cope over winter, and £1.5 billion to be invested for carers’ breaks.
Liz Kendall, Labour’s shadow social care minister, added: “Without family carers, our social care system would collapse.
“And yet, the Government’s plans to ‘fix the crisis in social care’ will do nothing to support the millions of unpaid carers who are seeing their own health and finances suffer because of their caring responsibilities.
“The Government must deliver a proper plan for social care that gives family carers the decent support they so desperately need. Families cannot wait any longer – they need help and they need it now.”
Jemima Johnstone, head of corporate immigration at Gherson Solicitors, said the new immigration rules has exacerbated challenges facing the social care sector, including staff shortages, which have led to reduced services.
“The UK government have see-sawed over whether to let our immigration system help or hinder the care sector. In 2020 they were adamant that immigration was not the way to address staff shortages. Back-tracking earlier this year, they made it easier for employers to sponsor overseas nationals as ‘Senior Care Workers’ by lowering the minimum salary they had to be paid and reducing fees. But there is plenty more they can do to allow immigration to provide a buffer, without blocking the long-term investment in training and salary increase that they want to see,” she said.
“For a start, they could address the fact that salary requirements for sponsored Senior Care workers are still well above the market average, part-time workers will find it impossible to meet salary minima, and ‘Care Workers’ can’t be sponsored at all.”