UK’s MS Society supports Carers Week

New research launched to mark the start of national Carers Week (8-13 June) shows that almost three-quarters (74%) of carers have reached breaking point due to the pressures of their caring role.

The shocking research shows the importance of recognising the unmet needs of carers ? the theme of this year’s Carers Week.

Other results in the survey showed the strain of their responsibilities is causing carers such extreme levels of stress and depression that they are suffering breakdowns and, in some cases, even attempting suicide.

Ann, from Norfolk, cares for her husband who has MS. She says carers are often overlooked and that a fairer system needs to be implemented for carers claiming their pension and a carers allowance. Current legislation means carers cannot claim both. She said: “the current system seems very unfair. I have been a full time carer for my husband for many years and worked in full time employment before that. It doesn’t seem right that I can’t claim both a pension and carers allowance ? just because I’m over 65 doesn’t mean I’m no longer a carer! Financial problems can cause some carers severe stress.”

The most common cause of carers reaching breaking point, cited by well over a third (41%) of survey respondents, is ?frustration with bureaucracy’. This frustration is often caused by the complex procedures for welfare benefits, healthcare and social services ? systems which are actually intended to support carers and those they care for. Other factors were a deterioration in the health of the person being cared for, lack of sleep and financial worries.

When asked what factors would have or did help them when they were at breaking point, by far the most important for carers was ?practical support?, with ?just having someone to talk to’ a close second.

Nearly a third (31%) of carers say that more money would make a difference – the main benefit for carers, Carers Allowance, is the lowest of its kind at just ?53.10 per week. Independent research by YouGov revealed that three-quarters (76%) of the public believe this is an unreasonable amount to support carers who are unable to work because of their caring responsibilities.

The importance of carers being able to take a break is also highlighted. Almost two-thirds (62%) have not had a break for over a year and, of these, over a third (34%) have never had a break since they started caring.

Carers Week is a partnership of 10 national charities that campaigns for greater recognition and support for the UK’s six million carers, and celebrates the contribution they make to society, which saves the economy ?87 billion a year. Carers Week 2009 has over 6,000 events and activities taking place across the country to ensure that all carers know that they are not alone, and that help and services are available.

Source: MS Society, UK

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