UNPAID carers are suffering health and career problems as they struggle to support loved ones without support.
According to research from the Carers Trust – formerly The Princess Royal Trust for Carers in Scotland – carers struggle on for years looking after sick or disabled family members and friends without help.
Research by YouGov for the trust showed almost two thirds of people said that apart from family and friends they have never accessed any other support or services such as respite breaks or counselling.
Six in ten of those that have been caring for more than five years have done so without accessing any additional support.
There are 657,000 carers in Scotland, with a fifth of them caring for a relative for more than 50 hours a week.
Battling on as a carer without support can lead to serious problems in carers’ lives.
Almost six in 10 carers said that being a carer had a negative impact on their working life. And another 58 per cent of the carers surveyed said that their mental health has been affected by taking on the role.
Anne Roberts, chief executive of Carers Trust, said: “As this survey shows many unpaid carers have never accessed any support services to help them in their caring role. We already know that many carers simply don’t have any awareness of the kind of help that is out there and what a huge difference it could make to their lives.
“We’ve launched Carers Trust so we can ensure that all carers know where to go to get that help when they need it and to help society recognise and value the role of carers in our communities across the UK.”
The main state benefit some carers can claim is carer’s allowance. It is only given to people who regularly spend at least 35 hours a week caring for someone with a severe disability. The average carer in Scotland receives £55.55 a week in carer’s allowance.
The trust says more than half of carers entitled to the allowance failed to claim it, with many not even realising they are entitled to the cash.
Other statistics from the trust showed that one in five carers admits to being in debt.
Across the UK, carers – who look after family members or friends who are ill, frail or disabled, or who have mental health or addiction problems – are estimated to save the government £87 billion a year.
Betty, 60, cares for her mother, Isabel who had a stroke three years ago which has affected her mobility, balance, co-ordination and her stamina. She eventually found out about support services for carers through the internet.
She said: “The people I speak to at the carers’ centre are wonderful. I know I can pick up the phone at any time and ask for advice or just get someone to talk to.
“I had felt as if I was on my own and really quite isolated. Little things can make a big difference – for example, knowing that there are other people out there who are in the same situation, who are suffering stress through caring and who understand what you are going through.”
There are approximately six million carers across the UK, according to the Carers Trust.