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Carers UK shines a light on the financial struggles of UK caregivers

Carers UK recently carried out an online survey from June to August 2023, collecting responses from 11,667 carers and former carers.

Challenges in the wallet for caregivers

A significant number of UK carers are wrestling with some hefty financial issues because of their caregiving roles, which are seriously affecting their income. Surprisingly, around 2.6 million people have had to step away from their employment to provide care.

The Carer’s Allowance, which offers a mere £76.75 weekly for 35 hours of care, has tight earning rules. Carers are dealing with extra expenses and increased financial pressure due to the ongoing surge in cost of living. This three-fold challenge involving caregiving costs, income reduction, and meagre benefits is putting carers in tough financial spots. According to the Family resources survey by the department of work and pensions, one in five Carer’s Allowance households is dealing with food insecurity. Moreover, the poverty rate among Carer’s Allowance recipients has doubled from 16% in 2010/11 to 34% in 2020/21, pushing carers to make difficult choices such as falling into debt or trimming down their self-care.

The carer’s allowance conundrum

In England, 39% of carers are benefiting from the Carer’s Allowance. Despite their incredible annual contribution of £162 billion to healthcare and social care systems, carers often feel unappreciated and overlooked. Carers providing over 50 hours of care per week are at a higher risk of facing financial issues. A significant number of carers are cutting back on activities that are good for their well-being including hobbies, leisure, and spending time with loved ones, all due to cost of living. Many carers are struggling to find the right balance between work and caregiving responsibilities, and the benefits system isn’t giving them the support they need.

What needs to happen next?

The survey’s results highlight the need for better support and resources to assist carers. Carers UK are urging government officials and policymakers to look into these issues and put things in place to prevent carers from falling into poverty. They suggest a range of recommendations, including:

  • revising and enhancing the value and eligibility criteria for the Carer’s Allowance
  • raising the income threshold
  • introducing a lower rate of Carer’s Allowance
  • modernising how Carer’s Allowance is managed
  • extending the grace period for Carer’s Allowance payments after the person being cared for passes away
  • introducing a social tariff for energy expenses
  • introducing extra non-means-tested payments for older carers

The recommendations also emphasise the importance of helping carers stay employed, promoting the Carer’s Leave Act, and offering two weeks of paid Carer’s Leave. Employers are encouraged to become more carer-friendly and adopt initiatives such as Carer Confident or Carer Positive.

In conclusion, this report shines a light on the pressing financial challenges faced by carers in the UK and makes a compelling case for taking action to better support this essential group of individuals.