Almost half of carers made ill by money worries

Almost half of people who look after sick or disabled loved ones have themselves fallen ill because of money worries, a survey shows.

By , Social Affairs Editor

7:00AM GMT 02 Dec 2011

Carers said they had lost earnings because of their responsibilities but at the same time 45 per cent said they had run out of money because of extra costs for medicines, transport and specialist equipment.

Many carers said they had cut back on essentials such as food and heating just to make ends meet while almost a third were living on their bank overdrafts.

Three-quarters were going out with friends and family less, as well as cutting back on buying clothes and taking holidays.

In addition, the poll of 4,250 carers carried out for Carers Rights Day found that the isolation and stress of looking after relatives or friends had led 76 per cent to suffer problems such as anxiety and depression, with 47 per cent worried about their finances.

Figures published last week showed that spending on carers by NHS bodies had fallen by £2.4million despite ministers promising £400m to help over five years, prompting the Department of Health to insist that plans must be put in place to support carers.

Emily Holzhausen, Director of Policy for Carers UK, which commissioned the survey, said the figures made “shocking reading”.

“There are an estimated 6.4 million people in the UK providing unpaid care and they are saving UK economy £119bn every year – that is more than the social care services and private providers combined. It is a scandal that, despite this contribution, carers end up sick with worry about how to make ends meet.

“We are calling on everyone in society to help carers access support. Many carers are not given the advice and information they need – so if you know someone who cares for an ill or disabled loved one, make sure they get advice. But we need radical reform of carers’ benefits to stop families who care falling into poverty.

“Because the system is so complex, many people struggle to access the benefits they need Getting people the right advice can be time-consuming, that is why we hold Carers Rights Day to let people know about all the support that is available.”

Dr Ros Altmann, director-general of the over-50s organisation Saga, added: “The Government appears to be working its way through the issues, youth unemployment, pensions and so on, so maybe carers are on the list for imminent attention – but one can’t help but think there’s a pervading degree of complacency amongst the directly-unaffected, because carers actually just get on with things with little or no fuss and few demands.”