Scotland’s unpaid carers missing out on £94 million

Web carer feeds elderly woman mum

An estimated 800,000 people in Scotland will take up carers roles over the next five years but will need better support or risk reaching breaking point warns charity

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28th November 2014 by Paul Cardwell 0 Comments

One in six Scots will become an unpaid carer within the next five years, according to new figures.

As Scotland's existing 657,000 carers already miss out on £95 million worth of benefits, Carers Scotland says there's an urgent need to improve support to carers.

The charity is calling for better promotion of carers rights. It wants all public bodies to work together and make it easier for those who look after older, sick or disabled loved ones to claim carers allowance. The benefit is paid directly to a carer who is unable to work full-time because they are caring for someone for at least 35 hours per week. 

New research by Michael Hirst of the Social Policy Research Unit at the University of York estimates that due to the aging population 800,000 more people in Scotland will take up caring roles over the next five years.

Without help and assistance carers can find themselves facing financial hardship, health problems, emotional stress and relationship breakdown – they can be pushed to breaking point

The charity is concerned that many will have to cut down on working hours and won't know what support is available to them. Full-time carers are twice as likely to be in bad health as non-carers.

“A third of people caring at any one time will be new to that role,” said Simon Hodgson director of Carers Scotland said.

“This presents a big challenge for services, local authorities and the NHS as they need to identify and reach out to new carers who are not accessing essential help and support."

Carers Scotland released the latest research to coincide with Carers Rights Day on 28 November. It also launched the new Carers Rights Guide so everyone can have access to expert advice, information and support.

It is calling for new training and a duty of care to be put on professionals such as teachers and GPs to recognise when someone is a carer and be able to point them in the right direction of help.

Hodgson continued: “Taking on a new caring role can happen quite suddenly and people can be thrown into a situation which turns their lives upside down.

“It could be because a partner has a stroke, a parent has a fall or a child is born with a disability. Without help and assistance carers can find themselves facing financial hardship, health problems, emotional stress and relationship breakdown. They can be pushed to breaking point. This has serious consequences for individuals and families and for employers and the economy as a whole.”

Carers Scotland estimates unpaid carers save the Scottish economy over £10 billion a year. 

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “It is important that carers get all the benefits they are entitled to. The Scottish Government’s guidance to NHS Boards on Carer Information Strategy funding, which amounts to more than £28 million between 2008-2015, includes, as one of the priorities, income maximisation and financial inclusion for carers and young carers.

“This support is also contributing to the funding of carers centres across Scotland which play a significant role in identifying and supporting carers. This support can include emotional support, advocacy and financial advice.

“We are also introducing a carers bill that will extend the rights of carers and young carers. The bill will make a meaningful difference to unpaid carers and will contribute towards the improvement of their health and wellbeing, ensuring that they can continue to care and to have a life alongside caring.”