It may surprise you to know (or not!) that unpaid caring plays a key part in the lives of 1 in 8 of us across the UK.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, official figures indicated that there were 6.5 million unpaid carers looking after a friend or relative in the four home nations. But analysis from Carers UK suggests that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has doubled the number of UK unpaid carers to an estimated 13.6 million, equivalent to the population of a small country such as Guinea in West Africa.
We recognise that our human duty is to care for our family through good times and bad without state help, without reward and without complaining. But unpaid carers still need to eat, run a home and, like everyone, strive for a good quality of life. Secretly or openly, anyone of us acting as an unpaid carer wants their selfless and free contribution to society to be recognised.
Those of us caring alone are probably feeling a greater, possibly overwhelming, sense of isolation. Even if you are in a loving family and being supported by relatives, personal worries can mount while caring for a friend or relative, the stress possibly increasing as you also try to hold down a job, maybe look after children, have a relationship and try to run your own life. Having said that, unpaid caring comes out of love and committment to another human being and many of us would not have it any other way.
But, like life itself, all of these extra responsibilities can prove to be stressful at times. The good news is that help is at hand.
If you work for or run an organisation that aims to help unpaid carers and would like Carers World Live to include a link to your organisation's web page, please get in touch by email to: ? or direct message us on Twitter.
In the meantime, here are some first thoughts and points of contact that we hope will help:
Carers UK - one of a number of national organisations for carers across the UK that provides specialist advice and support via their website, telephone etc.
Carers Trust - another national organisation that supports carers. They have locally based partners who are able to provide you with support, advice and practical 'hands on' support.
Carers' Assessments - Local authorities have a legal obligation to provide these assessments, aimed at finding out the impact of your unpaid caring responsibilities on your life, the person for whom you care and any family around you. Depending on this assessment, you may be able to benefit from advice, help and support.
Respite Care - a break from caring for someone - we all need a break from doing things and even from other people. Unpaid caring is different to taking leave from paid employment. There is an emotional tie and you don’t get paid for your time off. A break of this type is different in each case. It can be respite for a few hours or longer.
Juggling paid employment and unpaid caring - if you are trying to balance work and unpaid care but thinking that you may need to give up your job, your employers have to consider any request from you for flexible working so resigning may not be necessary. Sometimes continuing to work alongside your unpaid caring responsibilities can be good for your finances and your mental health. Depending on your situation, it may also be good for your relationship with the person for whom you care.
Money issues - if you have given up work, you are likely to find increasing pressure on your finances. There are some state benefits that you may be able to claim – these are always worth investigating. You may also qualify for help with your Council Tax which again is worth checking out with your local authority.
Parent Carers - If you care for a child because of special needs or a disability there is information to support you from Contact.
Young Carers - Young Carers are defined as any person under 18 years of age who looks after a relative with a disability, illness, mental health condition, or drug or alchol problem
Our thanks to the NHS, Carers UK, and the Carers Trust and Contact for providing the information via the links