Call for guaranteed help for carers as 92% say they lack support

30 / 11 / 2012

Two of Wales's leading charities have joined forces for Carers' Right Day this Friday 30 November to call for guaranteed support for unpaid carers, as a survey highlights the enormous pressures they face.

HandsIn a joint briefing paper Under pressure Carers Trust and Alcohol Concern Cymru look at the many demands on those who care voluntarily for family or friends, and some of the ways they cope. The paper includes the results of a survey of over 800 carers in Wales, making clear the intense demands on many of them:

 

  • 73% are providing more than 50 hours of care per week, and 46% have been caring for someone for more than 10 years

  • 95% identify fatigue and exhaustion as some of the main problems faced by carers

  • 87% mention financial pressures

  • 91% lack time for themselves

  • 92% say they don't get enough support.

The survey also looked at the ways carers cope with the demands on their time and energy:

  • 69% rely on friends and family for support, but 27% are not able to

  • 40% use respite services, but 26% don't see this as an option, and another 20% don't appear to be aware of respite opportunities

  • 93% feel they "just have to get on with it"

  • 20% say they have used alcohol to cope with the pressures of caring.

There are an estimated 370,000 unpaid carers in Wales; and at least 70% of the care for vulnerable people in Wales is provided by unpaid family, friends and neighbours, saving billions of pounds every year for public services.

Angela Roberts, Carers Trust's Director of Wales, said:

"Carers are under immense pressure, managing a range of competing demands on their time and often with little, or no, external help.

"We know from our own work in supporting carers that an individual's health, finances and wellbeing can all suffer as a result of caring. The findings from this survey reinforce our understanding of the challenges that carers can face.

"While the pressures that carers face cannot be underestimated, there is a range of support available.

"We've seen firsthand how, for example, the opportunity to take a weekly short break from caring, or the chance to talk to others in a similar situation, can make a massive difference to carers' lives."

Andrew Misell, Alcohol Concern Cymru Manager, said:

"Our research show that carers in Wales face substantial and long-term pressures, and are seeking out various ways to cope. Alcohol is very easily available, and drinking as means to relax and relieve stress is generally considered normal and acceptable in our society. We shouldn't be surprised, perhaps, if some carers use alcohol in this way. As one carer said to us 'When there's a crisis, that's when you need a drink. Carers have a lot of crises'."

"However, we need to remember that whilst often taken to enhance mood, alcohol in fact slows our mental and physical processes and can worsen physical and mental health. It is also potentially very addictive, and prolonged excessive use can lead to problems of psychological and physical dependence. When alcohol is regularly used as a means to cope with ongoing stress, the dangers can be particularly acute.

"On the positive side, we had strong interest from carers in information and support options around alcohol that are flexible, accessible and confidential, and we aim to work with local carers services to deliver that support where it's needed."

Carers Trust and Alcohol Concern Cymru have made a number of specific recommendations to reduce the pressures on carers and increase the support for them:

  • Funding for the social care services carers depend on needs to be safeguarded, including funding for respite services

  • Primary care staff need to identify and understand carer's situation, and help carers access suitable support 

  • Carers need a safe and secure environment to be able to discuss their coping mechanisms, including use of alcohol, and to be supported in looking at alternatives if they are worried there may be a problem.

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