With every day of the COVID-19 pandemic that passes, unpaid carers are saving the UK state £530 million in the care they provide, new research by charity Carers UK shows.
The research, released for Carers Rights Day, estimates that the care provided by people looking after older, disabled and seriously ill relatives and friends during the pandemic stands at £135 billion so far, after just eight months.
Previous research by the charity found that the majority (81%) of carers have been taking on more care since the start of the pandemic and nearly two thirds (63%) are worried about how they will continue to manage over winter.
Carers UK is calling on the Government to provide additional support for carers over winter and ensure those caring for more than 50 hours a week get access to a funded break.
With many crucial face-to-face support services such as day centres and support groups significantly reduced – or in many cases closed – because of costly infection and control measures, Carers UK is warning that people caring round the clock are going to break down after months of caring without respite.
Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, warned:
“With every day that this pandemic goes on, unpaid carers are being pushed to the limit providing ever more care for loved ones with fast-diminishing support. They say they feel completely overlooked, overwhelmed, and can’t go on like this.
“Without crucial breaks services up and running this winter, we will only see more unpaid carers break down and an increase in hospital admissions at a time when the health system is already under significant pressure.
“The Government has to acknowledge the enormous contribution made by carers during this pandemic – the value of which is a staggering £530 million every single day - and give back to carers by prioritising their health, wellbeing and resilience this winter.”
Carers UK is calling on the Government to urgently review carers’ breaks services and invest in them to ensure carers can take a significant break.
It is also calling on the Government to increase the income of carers entitled to Carer’s Allowance, just £67.25 a week, by £20 a week, to match the increase made months ago to Universal Credit. This would help carers providing 35 hours or more of unpaid care each week manage both the higher costs of caring in the winter and the lack of services available to help them stay in work.
Carers UK is urging the Government to deliver a New Deal for Carers in the medium term. Having given so much during the pandemic, the Government needs to give back to carers.