Times are challenging for those who care, and the situation is set to get worse following a report by the UK Government outlining how caring is a social determinant of health. Unpaid carers provide support for loved ones which is often “physically and emotionally demanding, with consequences for carers’ own health & wellbeing”.
The pandemic has highlighted inadequacies in the current system. Families are struggling and do not know where to turn to for the long-term help they need, and we have seen the number of Carers rising throughout the pandemic.
One of the key findings states that carers experience poor physical and mental health, but also have unmet care needs themselves. This if often because a large proportion of those caring in society are older. The make-up of the UK population indicates that the number of dependent older people is likely to rise by 113% by 2051. If you are in your 40’s now, unless something changes, it is likely with 2 in every 3 people caring in a lifetime that you too, may have care needs or indeed, be that unpaid carer.
Unfortunately, the entire caring network is under pressure due to increased demand, a shortage of carers and a lack of funding. For those who care, the outlook is not set to improve.
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?
The challenges are numerous and can be overwhelming for those affected by them. These include:
- Demand for carers outstripping supply
- Talented people leaving their jobs to care for a loved one (one in four employees, according to recent research from Sheffield University)
- Short term imperatives being prioritised over long-term planning and thinking
- The emergence of a care underclass in society – an army of invisible and underrated unpaid carers whose contributions and compassion go unnoticed and undervalued
- A perfect storm of conditions and circumstances that are exposing and exacerbating the existing issues around funding, coping in a pandemic, getting recognition, and finding help.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE?
Whilst local Government continue to do what they can to support unpaid carers with regular home-based respite care, the cost per family per year is escalating, with demand for services at an all-time high due to the compounded effects of Covid19. Whilst the statutory funds granted each year have been consistent, and the funded service maximised, the charity can only operate on a one in, one out basis.
This is a national problem that needs a national, Government led solution. We are all are aware of the contribution to the economy that unpaid Carers make, and although we have seen many promises to address the problems, what has materialised is no more than tinkering with the situation – it is ineffective, frustrating, and unlikely to realise a solution. Care is something that affects and impacts us all; there is no escaping it. How we care and support carers is like holding up a mirror to society; do we like what we see? What does this tell us about our priorities? About what matters?
The entire care sector – not just respite care or care homes or care pathways – needs overhauling. Care is not something that is bolted on to the NHS or healthcare sectors. It is integral to it.
And it is wider than just the immediate challenges. Because it has the potential to affect everyone, it needs to be viewed and addressed holistically. Care and carers are not optional extras. Caring must not be swept under the carpet; it is a positive and meaningful and compassionate component of who we are.
We need dynamic leadership and fundamental change if we are to break out of the downward spiral, we are caught up in. What we have is simply not good enough; we deserve better.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that people are vulnerable and need help. Society has changed as we come to realise this.
People talk about the ‘new normal’. My ‘new normal’ is to see care and carers made an instrumental and integral part of a post-pandemic society that brings them out of the shadows and shines a spotlight on this sector.
Chief Executive Officer