Posted: Tue 29th Nov 2022

Cost of living and access to health services impacting unpaid carers’ mental and physical health

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Tuesday, Nov 29th, 2022

Unpaid carers and the older, ill and disabled people they care for are facing a bleak winter in Wales, as difficulties getting NHS treatment and social care is eroding their ability to provide care, a new report has found.

The findings, released as part of “A snapshot of unpaid care in Wales’ by Carers Wales, estimates that one in four adults are now providing care to loved ones due to an increasingly ageing population.

However pressures on unpaid carers are continuing to grow, with 26% of those surveyed by Carers Wales cutting back on food and heating due to the cost of living crisis.

Three quarters of those who took part said the the rising cost of living is one of the main challenges they will face over the coming year.

The additional pressure on unpaid carers in Wales is emphasised by a quarter (24%) of carers reporting their physical health and a third (34%) rating their mental health as bad or very bad.

Nearly a third of carers (32%) said they often or always feel lonely.

Access to healthcare is also a major barrier, with two in five carers (41%) waiting over a year for specialist treatment or an assessment – with 43%, saying the person they care for has also been waiting for over a year.

Three quarters of carers waiting for treatment say it is having a negative impact on their mental or physical health – with many left in pain and unable to carry out their caring role.

Pressures do not always improve after receiving treatment, with half of carers upon discharge from hospital feeling that NHS staff did not provide them with the information, advice and support they needed to care well and safely, putting their own health and wellbeing at risk.

The rising costs of care services is worrying carers, with a quarter  saying the cost of care is too high and nearly two-thirds worried they won’t be able to afford services or practical support in the future.

Carers Wales is now urging Welsh Government to recognise unpaid carers as a group at heightened risk of poverty and prioritise them accordingly in anti-poverty policy making, ensure future financial support reaches carers who are unable to claim Carer’s Allowance and to repeat the Wales Fuel Support Scheme in early 2023.

The organisation is further calling on the Welsh Government to prioritise carers and social care when allocating additional funding from the UK Government as a result of the Autumn Statement, and for Health Boards and Social Services departments to review and improve the quality of information and support they offer to carers.

Claire Morgan, Carers Wales Director, said: “Gridlock in hospitals, lengthy NHS waiting times and a complete lack of social care has intensified the responsibilities and pressures being placed on unpaid carers.

“Add in the biting cost-of-living crisis and the vital, and much over relied on, service unpaid carers give Wales is close to collapse.

“It is now at the point, where these pressures are having an irreversible and devastating impact on unpaid carers’ mental and physical health. Their lives will be forever impacted by the trauma of this experience.

“Immediate and significant action must be taken to provide support and resources to ease the burden being placed on unpaid carers.

“This includes putting in place support structures so unpaid carers are given the skills, and support, they need to support their loved ones.

“The Welsh Government must provide additional financial support to carers and must urge the NHS and Local Authorities to intensify efforts to identify carers and provide them with the information and services they need to care effectively and safely.

“Without fast and concerted action, unpaid carers will no longer be able to provide care this winter and the bedrock that supports the health and social care system in Wales will crumble away and with it the hopes and dreams of a massive swathe of unpaid carers’.

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