Support for unpaid carers
Carers Rights Day is not only a good time to consider the impact that providing unpaid care can have on a carer’s life, but raise awareness of carer’s rights, and most importantly, share ideas that can make a carer’s life that little bit easier.
According to a YouGov poll carried out in May 2020, 17% of adults were providing unpaid care before the coronavirus outbreak – that is 1 in every 6 adults and up to 9.1 million people, this number increased dramatically during coronavirus which resulted in an additional 4.5 million carers. As of 2020 it is thought that 26% of adults are providing unpaid care, this is 1 in 4 adults and as many as 13.6 million unpaid carers in the UK. (source carersuk.org).
But what do we mean by ‘unpaid carer’? According to the Royal College of General Practitioners an unpaid carer is "a person of any age, adult or child, who provides unpaid support to a partner, child, relative or friend who couldn't manage to live independently or whose health or wellbeing would deteriorate without this help. This could be due to frailty, disability or serious health condition, mental ill health or substance misuse."
The support given by a carer might include shopping, helping to find or arrange care or support, helping with managing money, giving regular emotional support, helping with transport, picking up prescriptions or providing more hands-on care such as help with bathing, dressing, and feeding.
Without doubt, the physical, emotional, and psychological demands of caring can be extremely stressful and can affect a carer’s physical and psychological health. Depression is a common negative effect of care giving and caring for a person with dementia can be particularly challenging, causing more severe negative health effects than other types of caring.
Caring can take a toll on a carers’ education and employment opportunities, including career development, promotions and pay rises, as well as impacting on carers’ ability to work at all. Indeed, many are forced to give up work altogether or take early retirement or reduced hours.
According to the charity Carers UK, carers save the economy £132 billion per year, an average of £19,336 per carer (source carersuk.org) and yet Carer’s Allowance, which is the main carer’s benefit is just £67.35 per week (for a minimum of 35 hours caring), the lowest benefit of its kind!
If you have recently found yourself in the position of providing unpaid care, do not despair, ECL is here to provide advice, guidance and of course, practical hands-on help should you need it.
As an unpaid carer you have rights and are entitled to help. If you are over 18 and caring for someone who is also over 18 and is ill, disabled or elderly, the place to start is by asking your local council for a carer’s assessment. To request a carer’s assessment, contact the Adult Social Services team at your local authority, if you live in the Essex local authority you can email: Carers.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Generally speaking, the carer’s assessment will look at whether there is (or is likely to be) a significant impact on your wellbeing as a result of you caring for another person. If following your assessment, the council establishes that you meet the national eligibility criteria then you maybe entitled to support in the form of services or Direct Payments to pay for the support you are eligible for.
Some examples of the kind of help that could be available directly to you as a carer include:
- help with transport costs, such as taxi fares or driving lessons
- costs for a car where transport is crucial, such as repairs and insurance
- technology to support you, such as a mobile phone, computer where it is not possible to access computer services elsewhere
- help with housework or gardening
- help to relieve stress, improve health, and promote wellbeing such as a gym membership
Some examples of the kind of help that could be available to the person you are looking after, in order to help you as a carer include:
- changes to their home to make it more suitable
- equipment such as a hoist or grab rail
- a care worker to help provide personal care at home
- a temporary stay in residential care/respite care
- meals delivered to their home
- a place at a day centre
- assistance with travel, for example to get to a day centre
- laundry services
- replacement care so you can have a break
Taking a break as a carer can be one of the hardest parts of the role. It can be difficult practically to take some time off and still ensure your friend or relative is being looked after. But it can also be emotionally difficult, with many carers reporting that they feel guilty for taking a break.
You should never feel bad for needing to take some time away, nobody expects other people to work continuously without any days off or holidays, and most other roles are far less physically and emotionally demanding than caring!
Plus, not only is taking a break important for you, it is also important for the person you care for. Taking breaks is fundamental to how resilient you are as a carer and how well you are able to manage the role in the longer term.
At ECL we are ready to help you, ECL Day Services offer specialist, person-centred support for Older People and adults with a Learning Disability, providing well-earned day time respite for carers. Whilst ECL Care Solutions offer a wide range of mobility aids to make those everyday tasks a little bit easier and provide bespoke care at home solutions to enhance the independence of the person you are caring for, thereby reducing their reliance on you.
Here are some other useful hints and tips on carer’s rights:
- Juggling work and care can be difficult and as a working carer you are likely to need support to help you combine the roles. The good news is that most unpaid carers have the right to:
- Request flexible working
- Request time of to deal with carers’ emergencies
- Request parental leave
- Not be discriminated against or harassed under the Equality Act 2010
- Carers have the right to be identified as a carer. In order to be eligible for things such as your free flu jab, you should tell your GP that you are an unpaid carer. This means they can not only inform you of any health programmes available for you, such as vaccinations, but will also give them further context when they are treating you for any illnesses or injuries you may develop. Furthermore, if you are taken suddenly ill, they will be aware that the welfare of a vulnerable person may be at risk because you are no longer able to care for them and they can arrange for them to be looked after whilst you get better.
- Carers’ Grants -as a carer you may be able to access grants to help you take a break or to help pay for essential household items. There are many benevolent funds which offer financial support to people on low incomes.
- Disabled Persons Railcard – entitles the cardholder and a carer or companion one third of most adult rail fares on the National Rail network. It costs £20 a year, or £54 for a three-year card. You can buy one at any staffed ticket office or apply online. Find out more on the Disabled Persons Railcard website.
- Cinema Exhibitors’ Association Card – this card entitles you to one free ticket when you take the person you are caring for to the cinema. All national cinema chains accept it. You can apply for the card online. Find out more on the CEA website.
- Other Carers’ discounts - there are lots more free or discounted entry offers available to carers at museums, leisure centres, theme parks and National Trust sites across the country. They’re not always advertised – so it’s worth asking when you’re buying tickets! Several local authorities also offer carers’ shopping, leisure and other discounts. Ask your local authority what extra support they offer.
The role of a carer is a tough one and often goes unacknowledged, Carers Rights Day gives us all an opportunity to appreciate unpaid care givers. Not only do they have a huge impact on individual lives all over the country, but carers save the economy billions of pounds every year.
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