Five million carers do not have ‘control’ over their lives

Almost five million people in Britain feel they are losing control of their lives because of unpaid caring responsibilities, an official study suggests.

NHS research found that growing numbers of carers are having to put their own lives on hold to support disabled or elderly loved-ones.

The study showed that more than half of those with caring responsibilities are struggling with disabilities or illnesses of their own – in many cases for decades on end.

The recent national census showed that 10 per cent of the entire population of the UK – or 6.5 million people – provide regular unpaid care to someone else, with over a third of them dedicating more than 20 hours a week.

But a survey of 58,000 carers in England by the Government’s Health and Social Care Information Centre showed that for all but a handful it is now having a major impact on their own lives, careers and even health.

Overall 71 per cent said that they felt they no longer had full control over their lives – including 12 per cent who said they had “no control”.

In a similar survey two years earlier 68 per cent said they did not have enough control.

Almost half of those surveyed were either self employed or retired and one in five of them said they could not have a job specifically because of their caring responsibilities.

Just over half of them had a long-standing illness or other impairment and one in five had been caring for more than 20 years.

Thea Stein, chief executive of the Carers’ Trust charity, said: “For carers, having control over your own life and being able maintain a life of your own throughout difficult times of caring for someone else, is crucial.

“There is simply not enough support, intervention, training, respite, care and guidance for the UK’s unpaid carers.

“This means their own health and well-being suffers and they can end up needing care themselves.

“The nation’s unpaid carers need our support if they are to continue to keep those they care for out of hospital, out of care homes, and support them to live at home with as much independence as possible.”

Norman Lamb, the care minister, said that £400 million had been set aside to fund breaks for carers.

He said: “Carers do an incredible job of supporting their loved ones, whether they are family members, friends, or even neighbours.

“They make a huge contribution to society and we want to do all we can to support them.

“We are setting out a modern duty for local authorities in the Care bill to enable people to access information and advice they need, including info and advice on caring.

“And, for the first time, carers will receive the same right to support as the person they look after – councils will have a duty to meet their eligible support needs and the impact of their caring responsibilities will have to be considered in assessments.”