Baroness Pitkeathley asks the government how it will respond to the 'In Sickness and in Health' report on the health of carers
The Report ‘In Sickness and in Health’ was published by the eight charities in partnership for National Carers Week. It is a report of a survey of 3,400 carers asking them about the impact of caring on their health and well being.
Anyone not familiar with the lives of carers will be shocked by the findings. For example 83% of those surveyed said that caring had a negative impact on their physical health and 87% said it had a negative impact on their mental health. The reasons for this were a lack of practical support and financial worries due to a lack of financial support and the costs which they incurred while caring.
Carers constantly neglect their own health by putting off visits to their own GP, not eating properly and being deprived of sleep. They reported putting off hospital appointments and surgery and even if admitted to hospital being forced to discharge themselves prematurely because substitute care was unavailable. As one said ‘Looking after your own health is one of the most difficult aspects of caring which professionals don’t seem to recognise or prepare for’
Another disturbing statistic is that although the majority of respondents thought their lives would be improved by more support from local authorities and more respite care, there seems little prospect of this since over half of them are either already experiencing cuts in services or are worried about how they will cope with such cuts.
Everyone agrees that carers should be supported. That is a of morality but also an economic issue since they are saving the UK £120 Billion every year- the cost of providing another NHS. But there is a crisis in care as social care has been underfunded for so many years. Social care Reform is promised- in fact the announcement is due to be made on the day of this Lords Question. This is welcome of course and we must hope that much more support for carers will be part of it. But without tackling the major problem of long term funding for social care, of a new contract between the individual and the State which is explicit and understood by all, the danger is that any improvement for carers will be at best a temporary and inadequate solution to a problem which grows year by year.