There are around 6 million unpaid carers across the UK helping and supporting family and friends with health conditions or age related difficulties to live independently in their own home.
According to our most recent Health Survey for England
data carers suffer poor health and feel high levels of stress. 39% of male carers and 48% of female carers told us that their own health had been affected by caring for others – they report feeling stressed, tired, short tempered or experiencing disturbed sleep.
What is more is that many of these unpaid carers are in the lowest income groups. Unsurprisingly, their unpaid caring responsibilities impact on their ability to earn a living - 15% of male carers and 18% of female carers reported that their employment status had been affected by their caring activities – which included things like having to work fewer hours or leaving their job altogether.
As a nation we rely on the unpaid care individuals provide to family and friends, so the least we can do is make a real investment in supporting them. With the right support carers could continue to provide good quality care but also maintain their own wellbeing.
This week is national carers week – a time to celebrate and recognise the work carers do. And if we really want to recognise them - we must recognise the contribution of carers to the economy and to the wellbeing of the nation as a whole. With an aging population, their role is only going to become more and more important, as will our role in supporting them.