Letter to Editor: Unpaid carers filling gap in health and social care

Seven million family carers provide unpaid care to a family member

Chief Executive, Carers Trust

Dear Sir,
Over the last few weeks much has been written about the role of ‘carers’– those who provide care in a paid capacity ‘care support workers’ and those who care unpaid for a friend or family member who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction cannot cope without their support ‘carers’.

There is a clear difference between these two types of roles and Carers Trust, a charity which supports unpaid carers feels that it is very important to make that distinction. 
Today there are seven million carers providing unpaid care to a family member, neighbour or friend in need. Unpaid carers save the economy in excess of £119bn every year and often bridge a gap that health and social care departments cannot fill because of staffing and financial constraints. Everyday unpaid carers provide help and support to people that the state is unable to provide, keeping people out of our very busy hospitals, out of care homes and as far as is possible helping to maintain their independence in their own home. But there is a price to be paid for this, and it is too often the unpaid carer who pays it with in many cases severe financial consequences and an impact on their own health and wellbeing.
Recent features in the national press and on TV about, for example, 15 minute calls and zero hours contracts are only a symptom of the real underlying problems. Whilst they highlight the fact that paid for care providers, including many of our own Network Partners who provide paid care in order to give unpaid carers a break, are struggling to cope with delivering care to the volume of people that require help and support, the stories do not address the underlying issue of a system which cannot cope and is becoming increasingly dependent on the UK’s seven million unpaid carers.
Without unpaid carers the system would simply not be able to cope and they need support.
Yours faithfully
Thea Stein

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