New research from Carers UK and the Universities of Birmingham and Sheffield has revealed that unpaid carers were unable to access help with their physical and mental health during the lockdown.
This was at a time when the majority (70%) of carers had to provide more care for older, disabled or seriously ill relatives or friends, and millions more people took on an unpaid caring role.
This latest research shows that over half (58%) of people caring for someone outside of their own home were unable to get through to NHS 111 services in April. This is compared to 33% of the general public.
89% of carers saw their NHS treatments cancelled or postponed in April, compared to 77% of the general public. As it is difficult for many carers to find the time or get replacement care to receive treatment, many will still have unresolved health problems says Carers UK.
Those with acute mental health needs have been unable to get help, with the latest findings showing that close to half (42%) of unpaid carers needing psychotherapist services were unable to access help in lockdown. In addition, half of carers needing formal care services could not get them in April, and 40% in May.
Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said, 'Some carers have had to cope for months without any outside support - seeing the health, wellbeing and mobility of the person they care for deteriorate, and their own physical and mental health heavily impacted as well.
'With a large number of support services still closed, carers are desperate for a break. It is imperative that these services are reopened as soon as possible and that local authorities undertake a rapid reassessment of carers’ needs. Likewise, the NHS must quickly identify carers and prioritise their needs and medical treatment. If their health breaks down, the cost will be catastrophic.
'Carers must not be left unaided should there be a second wave or future lockdowns. Their care is vital to supporting older and disabled people in our communities.'
In its Recovery Plan, Carers UK is calling for unpaid carers to be prioritised as part of the Government’s own recovery planning. Specific recommendations include:
- Systematic reviews and planning to ensure that those carers most at risk of poor wellbeing and burnout get support.
- Urgent reassessment of carers’ support needs by local authorities.
- Reinstatement of care and support services as soon as possible.
- Should another lockdown be put in place, carers should have priority access to the NHS 111 service and their planned medical treatment should be prioritised going forward.
- Sustained investment in carers’ mental health, wellbeing and ability to care.
- Carers’ voices and experiences put at the heart of building future recovery, locally and nationally.
As well as unpaid carers being unable to access services, at the height of lockdown they also felt more financially insecure compared to the general public - especially women. 1.3 million carers said they were finding it very difficult to get by, quite difficult to get by or were just about getting by.