Carers in crisis struggle to find help
CONVERSATIONS Healthwatch has had with carers over the past years paints a stark picture of what it is like trying to find and accessing help when taking on caring responsibilities for relatives, friends and neighbours.
Many of those who shared their stories said they felt they only found out about the help on offer ‘by chance’ and only really started looking at their options when they had already started struggling.
We know the number of carers is increasing and they are doing more than ever before.
According to Carers UK unpaid carers currently contribute £132 billion pounds worth of care support to family and friends. This is more than seven times what the £17 billion councils spend annually. Carers Trust estimate it would take 4 million extra full-time paid social care staff to cover the work of unpaid family carers. Ensuring carers get the support they need is therefore vital to the sustainability of the care sector as a whole
Under the Care Act 2014, councils were given a key role in assessing the support needs of those providing unpaid care. Yet it is clear public awareness of this assessment process and the support made available is too low.
New analysis of waiting time data conducted by Healthwatch England shows that on average people wait two months between contacting the local authority and actually being able to access services. While this is not an excessive amount of time in its own right, for those seeking an assessment when already approaching a point of crisis these waits are creating incredible stress.
Often the result is that the person being cared for suffers, sometimes ending up in hospital or a residential care home. This can limit their independence, affect their quality of life and ultimately cost the NHS and social care sector more money.
Carers themselves are also affected, having to give up work because they can’t cope or becoming ill themselves. This can lead to longterm problems which mean people never return to work. The emotional toll of being a carer, in particular the feelings of ‘guilt’ around not being able to cope, can also leave lasting scars.
Healthwatch asked Wokingham Borough Council how many young carers they knew about – the response was 82 – practically the same number as three years ago. More consistent and better data is urgently needed if the Council is going to reach out to carers earlier and make a successful case for the necessary resources to meet local demand.
Jim Stockley, Healthwatch Chair, said: “At the moment we have a system that waits for people to ask for help, which usually comes when they are on the brink of a crisis. To support carers effectively services need to be much more on the front foot.”
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