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Carers Week: This unpaid army deserve so much more

Blog post 12 June  2017

Carers – where would we be without them? Interesting, isn’t it, that the UK public does not feel that unpaid carers are sufficiently valued, according to a new online poll published today (12 June) for the start of Carers Week.

More than 7 in 10 (74 per cent) of the UK public feel carers are not sufficiently valued by society for the support they provide and this figure rises to just over eight in ten (83 per cent) of those who have previous experience of caring themselves.

The unpaid care provided by the UK's carers has been estimated to be worth £132 billion a year.

The figures is staggering. I’m heartened that such a huge benefit is given out of generous hearts, but simultaneously saddened that this army of 6.5 million people in the UK is not financially rewarded in some way.

According to organisers of Carers Week, the numbers of unpaid carers is rising faster than the general population. Each day, 6000 people take on a caring role but the poll showed that many people are unaware how likely it is they would take on a caring role and would be unprepared if they did become a carer.

One in five people aged 50-64 are carers yet half of those who are not currently carers (50 per cent) thought it unlikely they would ever become a carer.

When asked their top three concerns, affordability of care and the impact on their finances is the top worry (46 per cent) for people who have never had a caring experience if they were faced with taking on a caring role. Coping with the stress of caring (43 per cent) is the second biggest worry.

Nearly a third who have never cared for someone (32 per cent) said they would worry they didn't have the skills or experience to become a carer and more than a quarter (26 per cent) said they would worry about the impact of caring on their physical health.

Carers have worse health than the general public; carers providing 50 hours or more a week of care are more than twice as likely to be in bad health as non-carers. Worryingly, almost a quarter of those polled who have never cared (23 per cent) would not know or understand what help would be available if they became a carer.

The online YouGov poll was conducted on behalf of eight major charities that are calling on the new UK Government and society to do more to recognise the important contribution that unpaid carers make and support them to care.

Heléna Herklots CBE, on behalf of Carers Week, said in a Press statement: "It is deeply concerning that three-quarters of respondents feel carers are undervalued by society for their contribution and this figure rises further for those who have caring experience themselves.

“The Carers Week charities seek to raise awareness of the huge contribution that carers are making every day to the lives of the family and friends they support and to their communities.

In Carers Week we're calling on the public, government and all parts of society to play their part in supporting carers by helping to build communities that recognise and understand the value and needs of carers.

“From hospitals that provide discounts for carers in their cafés, or workplaces that give employees paid leave for caring; to offering to shop for a friend who struggles to get out of the house, there are hundreds of small changes we can make to ensure our communities become more carer friendly.

“We urge our new Government to do more to value and recognise the contribution made by the UK's 6.5 million unpaid carers and urgently set out its plans by publishing a strategy for carers.”

I’d like to say I’m surprised that so little is in place at Government level for these wonderful people, but I’m not.

For most of my working life I have dealt with professional carers on a daily basis and just like our army of volunteers they too are undervalued.

The members of West Midlands Care Association and other representative organisations like it deliver some excellent care against all the odds.

But these are people who have been trained and chosen their working roles.

As a society we depend on their unpaid care – something that’s becoming more and more prevalent.

I campaign tirelessly for the proper funding for the social care sector and like no time before we have a voice in the corridors of power.

These remarkable souls, who are honoured in Carers Week, indeed deserve a Government action plan to recognise and support them.

Thousands of events and activities are taking place across the UK for Carers Week with hundreds of individuals and organisations pledging to play their part in building Carer Friendly Communities.