Councils ‘lack data to properly support unpaid carers’

1 Oct 18

Councils need more consistent and better data to call for increased funds to support unpaid carers, a statutory health network has urged.

Healthwatch found 72 (47%) of 152 councils were unable to say how many unpaid carers, such as a family member or neighbour, were in their areas.

Fifty-one of the 152 councils were unable to say how long carers on lists had been waiting.

“More consistent and better data is urgently needed if councils are going to reach out to carers earlier and make a successful case for the necessary resources to meet local demand,” said the report out today.

Healthwatch England National director Imelda Redmond said councils in England must be on the “front foot” when offering support to unpaid carers.

On average, unpaid carers wait two months before they can access support services from councils, which can result in the person being cared for suffering, such as ending up in hospital, or the carer being affected, perhaps having to give up work or becoming ill themselves.

“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,” Redmond said.

“To support carers effectively services need to be much more on the front foot.”

Under the Care Act 2014 councils are required to assess the support needs of unpaid carers, but there is a lack of “public awareness” of this and often carers only found help “by chance” the group said.

Carers themselves are also affected, with 61% saying their physical health has been affected by the pressures of caring while 72% say the same about their mental health.

Emily Holzhausen, director of policy at Carers UK, said: “This new research from Healthwatch England highlights the scale and impact of the intense pressures unpaid carers face in looking after friends and relatives who are disabled, ill or frail.

“The unpaid support they provide is vital, but so often it comes at a cost to carers’ own health and wellbeing.”

Holzhausen said that there is a “real need” for councils to “reach out and offer preventative support services to struggling carers before they reach the point of crisis,” while central government must provide short term cash injection for the care system in the budget.

Glen Garrod, president at the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said: “We would encourage carers to identify themselves to councils who can provide advice and information and help assess their circumstances to see how best they can be supported.”

According to Carers UK unpaid carers currently contribute £132bn worth of care support to family and friends - more than the £17bn councils spend annually, Healthwatch said.

The charity Carers Trust has said it would take 4 million extra full-time paid social care staff to cover the work of unpaid family carers.

In September, the Local Government Association claimed £150m was needed to support unpaid carers.

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