One in three carers (33%) in Scotland are struggling to make ends meet, reveals new research from the charity Carers Scotland. This is on top of deep concern about practical support where just 16% of carers are confident they will get the practical support they need in the next 12 months.
A survey of over 600 people currently caring unpaid for family or friends, the majority of whom provide well over 50 hours of care every week, reveals the huge personal and financial cost of caring for a loved one. 25% of carers feel unable to manage their monthly expenses, with many carers worrying about how they will cope this winter as they face rising energy prices and increases in the cost of living.
As well as providing significant levels of care themselves, six in ten (60%) carers are also using their own income or savings to cover the cost of care, equipment or products for the person they care for. On average carers spend an estimated £1,160 a year on services or equipment for the person they care for.
The situation has got worse during the pandemic with 42% saying that their financial situation has worsened since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and a quarter (26%) are spending more on equipment or products for the person they care for.
As a result many are struggling financially and unable to save for their own retirement. Six in ten carers (62%) say they are worried about their ability to save and plan for the future. The financial strain is also damaging carers’ mental health with half (49%) reporting they feel anxious or stressed about their finances.
Carers are still having to take on more hours of care for the person they care for, with 70% of carers having reduced or no access to day services and four in ten carers reporting reduced or no access to paid care workers.
Simon Hodgson, Director, Carers Scotland:
“We are seeing unprecedented levels of stress where financial worry is piling yet more pressure on carers. With low levels of services, carers are going to be facing an extremely difficult winter with the rising costs of living, increased energy prices, a social care staffing crisis and a chronically underfunded system.
For years carers have been propping up our health and care system at a huge cost to their own personal health, finances and ability to stay in work. Throughout the pandemic they carried a huge load, with 80% taking on more care for relatives and 71% unable to take any breaks at all from their caring role. They desperately need support to regain quality of life and enable them to continue caring. The Government must recognise the toll being placed on unpaid carers and ensure that social care reform delivers for carers.
As it stands, providing unpaid care is pushing thousands of families into poverty and will have a lasting impact on their finances and quality of life. Carer’s Allowance the lowest benefit of its kind, and although we welcome the additional payments of Carer’s Allowance Supplement, there are many carers who do not benefit. The Scottish Government must find more ways to support more carers make ends meet.
At a UK level, the earning threshold of Carer’s Allowance must be increased to ensure that carers are able to choose to work and are protected from financial hardship.”
Carers Scotland estimates the number of unpaid carers in Scotland rose by 400,000 at the height of the pandemic to 1.1 million. Unpaid carers saved the Scottish economy £10.9billion a year during the pandemic.
Carers Scotland is urging the Scottish government to urgently put in place the financial and practical support that carers need. The Government should provide a dedicated Carers Hardship Fund available to all unpaid carers to support them with financial hardship, and as a priority invest more in replacement care services; this includes building-based day services, supporting with additional costs to enable increased capacity in the services that support carers and those they care for.
The Scottish Government and local partnerships must also provide additional funding to increase the capacity for carers centres and young carers services that provide vital emotional and practical support for carers.
Too many carers face a financial penalty for caring, the Government must review carers benefits and support as part of social care reform.