Claire Morgan, Carers Wales Director reflects on the unsustainable pressure unpaid carers continue to face beyond pandemic restrictions.
This Carers Week (6-12 June), I hope we all take the opportunity to reflect on the critical role of unpaid carers during the pandemic and acknowledge the continuing pressures they face despite the rest of society ‘opening up’.
The number of unpaid carers rose drastically across Wales during the pandemic. Many who took on additional caring responsibilities during the past two years have had to continue to provide support to the most vulnerable. Our new report which will be launched in Carers Week, shows the unsustainable pressure placed on unpaid carers and its substantial impact on their physical and mental health.
GET INVOLVED IN CARERS WEEK 2022
Carers Week, established by Carers UK 27 years ago, is an annual awareness campaign which takes place to recognise the vital contribution made by the UK’s 6.5 million carers.
I urge you to get involved in Carers Week as we all have a role to play in helping make caring Visible, Valued and Supported. Whether you can provide support to a friend or family member who cares for someone, ensure they are connected with information and help, do your bit to raise awareness or show your support for unpaid carers through ‘adding your voice’ on the Carers Week website: www.carersweek.org.
Unsurprisingly, our research shows that there are more unpaid carers in Wales in 2022 than before the pandemic, with 23% of the nation’s adults (approximately 584,134 people) now supporting a relative, close friend or neighbour because of chronic illness, including mental ill-health, dementia, disability, or older age.
Also, the intensity of care that carers provide has grown since earlier in the pandemic, with several factors possibly having an impact. Many services carers relied on previously remain reduced or closed, vulnerable people continue to shield and we all know about the pressures on primary health care and the chronic shortage of social care.
At the same time, we are facing a cost-of-living crisis which is increasing the costs of caring such as energy, food and travel costs. These rising costs are hitting carers hard. Our report shows that carers with lower household incomes are much more likely to be providing significant amounts of care (ie over 20 hours per week). Providing more care also reduces the chance to cope financially as carers are less likely to be able to juggle work and care, pushing them into poverty and financial hardship.
GETTING CARERS THE SUPPORT THEY NEED
It is absolutely critical that carers get the support they need to stay well to be able to continue to care for their loved ones.
The seven national charities leading Carers Week 2022 are Carers UK, Age UK, Carers Trust, MND Association, Rethink Mental Illness, Oxfam GB and The Lewy Body Society. We are calling for a recovery and respite plan for Wales dedicated to the needs of carers, including; specific investment in mental health support, prioritising carers leave, boosting carer’s incomes to reduce the risk of poverty and hardship, help with food and energy costs and, ahead of the winter, prioritisation in the vaccination programme.
Please do what you can this Carers Week to make caring Visible, Valued and Supported.