May 21, 2024

South West News

South West News from Gloucestershire to Cornwall

Cost of living crisis pushing thousands of Bristol and South Gloucestershire’s unpaid family carers even deeper into financial hardship and poverty

Carers Week begins across the UK today. But for thousands of unpaid family carers across the South West who were already experiencing real financial hardship as a result of having to give up paid work to perform their caring role, there will be little to celebrate.

 Even before the pandemic, a funding crisis in the social care system meant thousands of unpaid family carers in Bristol, South Gloucestershire and across the UK were under real pressure, having to take on ever greater caring responsibilities because of funding cuts and the closure of local care services.

Carers Trust research published earlier this year found that almost two thirds (62%) of unpaid family carers were spending 50 hours or more per week caring for a family member.

 

Unpaid family carers in Bristol, South Gloucestershire and across the UK especially vulnerable to the cost of living crisis

The financial consequences for unpaid carers and their families, in Bristol, South Gloucestershire and right across the UK, have been severe.

Our research found that almost half (48%) of all unpaid family carers have had to give up work because of their caring role. This, of course, has had a severe impact on household finances for unpaid carers. Even before the cost-of-living crisis began to bite, our survey of unpaid carers found:

 

  • 49% had had to use their personal savings.
  • 27% said they had had to borrow money from a friend.
  • 24% said they had had to use a credit card to pay for everyday items.
  • 31%% of survey said they had had to cut back on food.
  • 42% said they had had to cut back on other household expenditure.
  • 51% said they had had to give up on hobbies or personal interests.
  • 45% said they had had to use their own money to pay for things that are essential for their caring role.

 

And despite everything unpaid family carers do to prop up creaking health and social care services, they still receive very little support from the Government. Carer’s Allowance is the principal benefit for unpaid carers. It amounts to just £69.70 per week, lower than other comparable benefits like Job Seeker’s Allowance and Universal Credit.

A further indication of lack of support from the Government for unpaid family carers came when the Chancellor recently announced a cost-of-living support package. Carer’s Allowance was excluded from the benefits listed as qualifying for the extra £650 one-off payment for those in greatest need, thereby shutting out many vulnerable unpaid carers in Cornwall and across the UK from the additional support.

 

Tim Poole, Chief Executive, Carers Support Centre Bristol & South Gloucestershire said:
“Carers have been under enormous pressure over the last two years due to the pandemic. Many were only just beginning to feel there is light at the end of the tunnel.

“Unfortunately, for so very many of them that light is the oncoming train that is the cost of living crisis. An increasing number of carers are contacting us, worried about the future for both the person they care for and themselves.

“They have already cut back wherever they can, but even then many are only just managing to cope and worrying significantly about what will happen in the autumn and winter when the energy bills are set to soar again.

“Whilst we listen to and support carers in many different ways, there is little we can do to reassure them on this issue. What we need is for the government to step up and follow the lead of both Wales and Scotland and target additional financial support for carers, who are the bedrock of our Health & Social Care system.”
At the start of Carers Week, Kirsty McHugh, Chief Executive of Carers Trust, said:

“This Carers Week is a time for us to urgently call on the UK Government to stop ignoring unpaid carers on Carer’s Allowance, and instead make them a priority group for the extra financial support they so desperately need and deserve.

“They could do this by following the example of the governments in Wales and Scotland which have targeted unpaid carers on Carer’s Allowance with extra financial support to recognise how their vital caring roles have all too often pushed them into financial hardship.”