Carers Week 2019: Unpaid carers are suffering from a ‘loneliness epidemic’

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By Katie Grant at I News Britain

One in three unpaid carers is always or often lonely, compared with one in 20 of the general population

Unpaid carers are seven times more likely to be lonely than people who are not responsible for looking after a loved one living with an illness, disability, mental health condition, or as they grow older, a survey has found.

One in three unpaid carers (35 per cent) is always or often lonely, compared with one in 20 (five per cent) of the general population, according to the poll of more than 8,000 carers, the majority of whom provide more than 50 hours of care every week.

Many respondents attributed their loneliness to becoming isolated from their friends and colleagues due to a lack of time and money, and also to the stigma of being a carer, said Carers UK, which conducted the survey.

8.8m unpaid carers

The number of people providing unpaid care is increasing rapidly, and it appears there are far more unpaid carers in the UK than previously. Carers UK suggested that figure could now stand at around 8.8m adults – one person in six – up nearly 40 per cent from the estimated 6.3m in 2011. Forecasts published at the start of century estimated that the number of unpaid carers in the UK wouldn’t reach nine million until 2037.

Today, Monday, at the start of National Carers Week, which aims to raise awareness and understanding of unpaid caring, seven national charities have come together to stress the “urgent need to tackle loneliness and improve well being among the UK’s carers”.

Carers UK, Age UK, Carers Trust, Motor Neurone Disease Association, MS Society, Rethink Mental Illness and Sense are calling for unpaid carers to be at the heart of what they say are “much needed reforms” to social care funding and for the Government to improve financial support for carers.

The overwhelming majority of unpaid carers – 7.3m – live in England, analysis of YouGov polling data indicates. There are 747,000 unpaid carers in Scotland, 400,000 in Wales and 272,000 in Northern Ireland, according to the Carers UK analysis.

Loneliness epidemic

“With as many as one in six adults in the UK now taking on an unpaid caring role it is high time our society recognises and values the crucial support they provide, said Helen Walker, chief executive of Carers UK.

“Many unpaid carers struggle alone without support. If we are to combat the loneliness epidemic facing them it is imperative that everyone – Government, employers, health and care professionals, schools and universities, and each of us individually – plays a role putting carers in touch with practical and financial help,” Ms Walker added.

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