Headlines: June 8th, 2009

More than six out of ten people providing unpaid care for someone who is ill, frail or disabled have not had a break for more than a year and a third of them have not taken time off since they started caring. Research issued today to mark the start of Carers Week, has found that almost three-quarters of those surveyed say they have reached breaking point.

The organisers of Carers Week say the results show the strain of caring is causing such extreme levels of stress and depression that carers are suffering breakdowns and, in some cases, have even attempted suicide. Meanwhile a national charity is calling for greater recognition of the importance of regular respite breaks for the UK’s six million carers.

More than 40 per cent of those taking part in the survey cited frustration with bureaucracy as the greatest cause of their problems, particularly complex procedures for welfare benefits, healthcare and social services which were actually intended to support them. Other factors pushing carers towards breaking point were deterioration in the health of the person being cared for, lack of sleep and financial worries. Asked about what would or did help them carers said practical support was most important with having someone to talk to as a close second.

Almost a third of carers said more money would make a difference to them. New independent research by YouGov has also found that 76 per cent of the general public believe the Carers Allowance of 53 pounds 10 pence a week an unreasonable amount to support carers who cannot work because of their responsibilities. Carers also highlighted the importance of being able to take time off from their role. Half of those surveyed said having a break would or did help.

Jonathan Powell, the chief executive of the national charity Vitalise, which provides short breaks for disabled people and their carers, said: “The lack of recognition and reward for the unsung work carers do is frankly shameful. Carers are being driven to the very edge by the stress of caring for a loved one without adequate support.”