Carers UK have published a worrying new report into the affect on unpaid carers of the growing cost of living crisis.
Heading for Crisis: caught between caring and rising costs focusses on the impact of the cost of living crisis on unpaid carers, both in terms of their finances as well as on their health and wellbeing.
The research is based on their annual State of Caring survey of over 13,000 unpaid carers, including many from Surrey.
The report finds:
- 1 in 6 (16%) unpaid carers are in debt as a result of their caring role, increasing to 2 in 5 (40%) for unpaid carers in receipt of Carer’s Allowance.
- The proportion of carers unable to afford their utility bills has more than doubled since last year – from 6% in 2021 to 14% in 2022.
- Those in receipt of Carer’s Allowance are also more likely to be cutting back on food and heating (35%) compared to all unpaid carers (25%).
- Nearly 8% of unpaid carers in receipt of Carer’s Allowance are using food banks to cope with the cost of living crisis, compared to 5% of all unpaid carers.
- Carers who care for longer and provide more hours of care per week are more likely to be struggling financially. The proportion of people caring for over 5 years are almost twice as likely to be struggling to afford the cost of food (20%) and be in debt (19%) compared to people caring for less than 5 years (11% and 9% respectively). 31% of those caring for over 35 hours are struggling to make ends meet compared to 16% of those caring for less than 35 hours.
- Nearly all carers who are struggling to make ends meet (93%) agreed that the increase in the cost of living was having a negative impact on their mental and physical health.
Calls on Government
The report makes a number of both short and long-term recommendations, calling for UK Government to support unpaid carers through the coming winter months and to take steps to improve carers’ financial stability in the longer term.
To ensure carers are supported during this extremely difficult time and beyond, Carer’s UK are calling on the UK Government to immediately provide additional and targeted financial support for unpaid carers, including:
- Providing a top up payment to unpaid carers with an entitlement to Carer’s Allowance to support them through the winter in recognition of the additional costs they are facing.
- Uprating all benefits, including Carer’s Allowance and the Carer Element of Universal Credit, in line with current levels of inflation before next April – ideally as soon as possible – to ensure that vulnerable groups can survive the winter months.
- Raising the earnings limit for Carer’s Allowance to the value of 21 hours work a week at the National Living Wage rate (£199.50 at 2022/23 rates), to allow carers to work more hours a week where they wish to do so, without losing their entitlement.
However, many unpaid carers have been struggling financially long before the cost of living crisis. Carers UK are therefore also calling for a number of longer-term measures to ensure that unpaid carers do not end up in poverty and financial hardship in the first place.
They want to see a dedicated National Carers Strategy, measures to support carers to continue and return to paid work, as well as reviewing of the level and eligibility rules for carers’ benefits to ensure these adequately value and support unpaid carers so they can continue to provide care and to look after their own needs and wellbeing.