In its new State of Caring report released today, Carers UK has revealed that unpaid carers are unable to save for their retirement, as many are using their own money to support the person they care for.
The survey of over 7,500 unpaid carers, the majority of whom provide more than 50 hours of care per week, suggests that two in five carers (39%) are struggling to make ends meet. Those who take on caring responsibilities also often reduce their hours at work, turn down promotions or leave work altogether, according to Carers UK.
As well as providing significant levels of care to their family or friends, more than two thirds (68%) of carers are also using their own income or savings to cover the cost of support, equipment or products for the person they care for.
This is creating financial pressure for carers, as over half of those in caring roles who haven’t yet retired are left unable to prepare for the future, and 53% of all carers are unable to save for retirement.
The vast majority (78%) of carers who report they struggle financially are paying towards the cost of care services or equipment for the person they support. For those on a low income or receiving Carer’s Allowance it is a never ending struggle to make ends meet, according to the State of Caring report. Three quarters (73%) of this group are unable to save for retirement.
On top of the huge costs of caring, crucial support is being cut, with one in eight carers (12%) reporting that they or their loved one received less care or support in the previous year as a result of reduced support from social services.
The survey findings paint a worrying picture of carers under immense financial, physical and mental strain and an underfunded social care system that is taking its toll on families, says Carers UK.
Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK said of the findings in the State of Caring report, 'This is a classic case of robbing Peter to pay Paul, with carers already providing high levels of support left short-changed as they use money for their retirement trying to cover the care costs of their loved one today.
'As it stands, providing unpaid care is pushing thousands of families into poverty and is having a lasting impact on their finances and quality of life.
'Our current social care system is on the brink. Families urgently need affordable, high-quality care services and carers need access to regular breaks and stronger workplace rights to ensure they can combine work and care if they wish to.
'The leadership candidates cannot afford to ignore this burning issue affecting millions across the country and must commit to funding and delivering a reformed system that has families at its heart.'
Carers UK is urging Government to urgently put in place the financial and practical support that carers need, both in the short term and over the longer term, to ensure the sustainability of the health and social care system.
Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, which is campaigning for a better-funded social care system, commented, 'This research shows the human consequences that the failure to adequately invest in and reform adult social care in England is having on carers. Many are left to fend for themselves with no support. The intense pressures they and the people they are caring for are facing is unacceptable.
'At the same time we are staring down the barrel of an ageing population, with more people with complex needs who will increasingly rely on informal carers for support. If we don’t support carers then we risk not only harming those individuals but also the people they are providing vital care for.
'We need the Government to recognise the urgency of putting right a struggling system which is failing record numbers of our most vulnerable people and their families. The next Prime Minister must commit to a solution as a priority when he arrives in Downing Street, and that starts with alleviating the most intense pressures in what is likely to be an emergency Budget this autumn. This must then be followed up by a long term settlement and comprehensive reform in the next spending review.'