With an ageing population and people living longer with serious illness and disability, caring for an older or disabled loved one is increasingly a reality for UK families. There are over 6.4 million carers in the UK and latest Census figures showed an 11% increase in the carer population over the last decade.
A Carers UK/YouGov poll of UK adults shows three quarters of the population would be worried about the financial impact of giving full time care to a family member (76%).
Those aged 35 to 54, the age group most likely to be taking on caring responsibilities for older parents, expressed greatest concern - with over half of 35 – 44 year olds (51%) saying they would be very worried about the financial impact on their family if they had to give full time care to a family member.
But the worry also significantly impacts younger generations. Four in 10 of those aged 18 to 34 said they would be very worried about how they would cope financially if they had to care for a family member (40%).
A staggering 67% of UK adults said they would either be unable or would struggle to pay household bills if they had to give up work to care and rely on the current level of state help for carers.
The poll showed most of the adult population – almost 8 in 10 (77%) - believe they should receive more than £100 a week if they have to give up work to care for a family member – a figure almost double the current basic benefit for carers (£58.75 a week for Carer’s Allowance).
The rights of carers and the (often) unpaid services they give to our communities are fundamental to a civilised and caring society. We should be proud of the work they do. Almost all of us will be in a position where we have to care for friends, family or neighbours. Many of us do it without thinking about rights or rewards.
However, the more reliant the state becomes on unpaid carers in times of austerity, the more we need to protect such people.
It is in our own interests if nothing else – as the alternative will be increased burdens on our health and social care system – and that at a time when budgets are being squeezed in the public sector.
Heléna Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK said: “We will all care for an older or disabled loved one or need care at some point in our lives. The financial cost can push family finances to breaking point as they face the extra costs of ill-health and cut working hours or give up work to care. As more and more of us face the responsibility of caring for loved ones, today’s poll makes it clear anxieties around coping financially when caring for loved ones cut across generations.
“The financial support for people looking after loved ones currently isn’t enough to stop families falling into debt and financial hardship. Now, on top of this, families who are already struggling face a blizzard of cuts and changes to the benefits system.
By Pete Donohue
Stephensons has a long history of expertise in the field of community care law and has experts in adult care provision, child care, and care funding matters.
We have been involved in a number of important cases in this field. Such services are a duty of the Authorities to provide to persons with eligible and assessed needs, such as the disabled, vulnerable children or the elderly.
Legal aid may be available, or we have a competitive tariff of fixed fee options to assist people in legal matters in this field.