The government is being urged to publish a Recovery and Respite Plan for Unpaid Carers by Carers UK and other charities supporting National Carers Week.
The plan should outline additional support for carers across a range of areas, including breaks, respite and care services, infection control, identification of carers, financial help, and support to help people juggle work alongside their caring responsibilities.
“Carers Week 2022 comes following an extraordinary two and a half years for unpaid carers, who have faced unprecedented pressures throughout the pandemic,” a statement on behalf of those involved in National Carers Week said.
A carer is someone who provides unpaid care and support to a family member or friend who has a disability, illness, mental health condition, addiction, or who needs extra help as they grow older. It isn’t someone who volunteers or is employed to provide support.
However, the number of unpaid carers remains higher than before the pandemic and now one in five of the UK’s adults (approximately 10.58 million people) are supporting a relative, close friend or neighbour because of chronic illness, including mental ill-health, dementia, disability, or older age.
The intensity of care they are providing has grown since earlier in the pandemic, with many support services remaining reduced or closed, vulnerable people continue to shield, pressures on primary health care and the chronic shortage of social care.
The numbers of people providing over 50 hours of care per week has risen by 30%. Carers with lower household incomes were much more likely to be providing significant amounts of care
Carers Week is an annual campaign in which Carers UK along with other charities involved with the cause raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges unpaid carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK.
The charities are calling for an urgent 12-month plan of targeted support for unpaid carers, as many struggle with the ongoing impact, as well as the legacy, of the pandemic, together with the strain of the social care and cost of living crises.
The seven charities supporting Carers Week 2022; Carers UK, Age UK, Carers Trust, MND Association, Rethink Mental Illness, Oxfam GB and The Lewy Body Society want the plan to be dedicated to the needs of carers including specific investment in their mental health support, carers leave a priority, help with food and energy costs and ahead of the winter, prioritisation in the vaccination programme.
Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK said: “Clearly, whilst society has opened up for many people, it’s a very different picture for significant numbers of carers.
“So many have sacrificed their physical and mental health caring for their loved ones over the last two years and as this report clearly shows, it is absolutely essential that carers get the support they need to stay well to be able to continue to care for their loved ones, that working carers are helped to stay in employment and that all carers can feel visible, valued and supported,” she concluded.
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