Britain’s ‘hidden army’ of 2.5m male carers

The needs of unpaid carers as a ‘female issue’ is wrong, according to Carers Trust.

New research from the charity shows that 42% of unpaid carers are male – 2.5 million men in the UK.

The new report by Carers Trust, the largest charity for carers in the UK and the Men’s Health Forum, the charity that works to improve men’s health services and the health of men, shows male carers have problems with employment and health.

Thea Stein, Chief Executive of Carers Trust commented: “Men who are caring often don’t feel able to ask for support at work, and often feel that support services are based around the needs of women. We need to ensure employers, families and communities support the dads, brothers, partners and sons in our communities carrying out this vital role.”

The report – Husband, Dad, Son, Boyfriend, Carer? – was commissioned by Carers Trust to look into the experiences and needs of male carers and to help raise awareness of the fact that male carers may not be getting the support they need.

The report surveyed more than 600 male carers and found 53% felt the needs of male carers were different to those of female carers, many citing that men find it harder to ask for help and support and that balancing work and caring is challenging, particularly if they are the main earner.

More than one in four male carers in employment would not describe or acknowledge themselves as a carer to others, meaning they may not get the support they need at work.

One quarter of men surveyed cared for more than 60 hours per week and worked and four in ten male carers said that they never had a break from their caring role.

56% of male carers aged 18-64 said being a carer had a negative impact on their mental health and 55% said that their health was “fair or poor”; male carers not working due to their caring role, or who are unemployed felt especially isolated.

Male carers under 65 in England are also more likely to visit their GP than the rest of the male population, visiting four times per year – but despite this their health is often still poor and many are not identified as being male carers and so do not get support.

Martin Tod, chief executive of the Men’s Health Forum said: “The UK’s 2.5 million male carers have been ignored for too long. They make a vital contribution, but face real extra health and work challenges that aren’t always properly addressed.

“Employers need to recognise that men can be carers too – and health and social care services needs to do more to address the physical and mental health needs of male carers – especially the hidden carers who may not be known to the system. Both employers and health services need to do more to provide the tailored support that male carers need.”