Headlines: December 4th, 2008

Britain’s army of carers are being hard hit by the current economic situation according to research published today which shows a dramatic rise in the number who are struggling financially. The study from the campaigning organisation, Carers UK, also shows two thirds of carers are living in fuel poverty.

Today’s results reveal that 86 per cent of carers report their financial position has worsened in the last 12 months. By contrast, Carers UK says, they are providing vital support looking after elderly, sick or disabled relatives which is estimated to be worth 87 billion pounds a year to the UK economy.

The researchers found that half of all carers are cutting back on food to make ends meet, a figure which has more than doubled since last year. A third of carers reported problems meeting rent or mortgage payments and three quarters say they are struggling to pay utility bills. That has risen from just a third 12 months ago and now sees 65 per cent of carers in fuel poverty, that is with more than a tenth of their income going on fuel bills. There has also been a big rise in the number who report being unable to afford essential repairs to their homes and a quarter of respondents said fuel costs had led to their cutting down on essential journeys such as going food shopping or to visit a doctor. The findings are based on a survey of more than 1,700 carers.

Carers UK says that perhaps most worrying statistic is that more than half of those in the study are now in debt as a result of caring, up from a third last year. To make ends meet they are resorting to borrowing with a third making use of bank overdrafts, a slightly larger proportion using credit cards and 15 per cent turning to other loan sources. Almost a third of those who owe money have debts of more than ten thousand pounds.

Imelda Redmond, the organisation’s Chief Executive, said, “Rising costs and the economic downturn are turning what is already a bad situation for carers into a personal financial crisis.”