A carer is anyone who gives unpaid support (not through paid employment, or through unpaid voluntary work) to look after someone who is unable to look after themselves. Without their support, the person they care for could not manage.
Carers come from all walks of life. They can be any age, male or female, and they can come from any culture or ethnic background. They may be looking after a child, relative, partner or friend who is ill or frail, or maybe injured after an accident; they may be caring for someone who is disabled or who has mental health issues; or substance misuse.
There are many different carer groups for example
Young carers- aged up to 18
Children and young people under the age of 18 years who provide regular and ongoing care and emotional support to a family member who is physically or mentally ill, disabled or misuses substances. The term DOES NOT apply to the everyday and occasional help around the home that may often be expected of or given by children in families.
Young adult carers – aged 18 – 25
Young people aged between 18 and 25 years who are caring either for another child or young person, or adult.
Parents caring for a disabled child or young person under the age of 18 years. Parents will often see themselves primarily as parents however their child will have additional care needs and maybe entitled to additional services.
Adults caring for adults over the age of 18. This includes adults caring for their adult children. Many carers have more than one caring responsibility; for example carers could be caring for two family members such as an elderly relative and spouse / partner. This is sometimes commonly referred to as ‘sandwich or dual caring responsibilities’ (Carers UK 2012)
Hidden carers may not identify themselves as carers and therefore may not seek support and information that would benefit them, or may not need or choose to seek support and information in relation to their caring role. Difficulties in identifying individuals in some specific groups can lead workers to believe, incorrectly, that these individuals do not need or want services or support. Although, there are hidden carers across all carer groups, the following groups are acknowledge as being harder to reach:
• Carers from minority ethnic backgrounds
• Carers who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
• Carers with mental health problems including those with dementia
• Carers who look after someone with a substance misuse problem (drug or alcohol)
Working carers are people who want to combine caring for another person with working. Supporting carers to remain in work can bring considerable benefits to carers themselves, employers and the wider economy.
Yet, while each carer’s situation differs, one thing unifies them all: Carers don’t choose to become carers. It is something that just happens, something that they do because they have to, because, if they don’t, there may not be anyone else who can. Every carer has a different story, but they all give up their own time to look after someone else.
Over the next 30 years, the number of carers IS expected to increase by 3.4 million (64%) (Carers Trust 2012)
Across Dudley borough alone there are at least 38,000 carers looking after people who need them – and this number is growing. Carers themselves need support, too.
Why do carers need support?
Carers are the largest source of care and support in each area of the UK. It is in everyone’s interest that they are supported.
The value of unpaid care carers give in the UK equates to £132 billion, this is almost the equivalent value as health spending in the UK which is £134 billion (State Of Caring UK 2016)
Carers may neglect themselves and their own needs and the caring role can impact upon their own health and daily life. Taking on a caring role can result in financial hardship , isolation, frustration, ill health and depression for the carer.
• Many carers give up an income, future employment prospects and pension rights to become a carer and many carers struggle alone and do not know that help is available to them.
• All carers need support to be enable them to have control over their daily lives whilst continuing with their caring responsibilities. For many carers access to information, financial support and breaks in caring are vital in helping them manage the impact of caring on their lives.
Post-caring, carers may need support to rebuild a life of their own and reconnect with education, work or a social life.
With an ageing population, the UK will need more care from families and friends in the future. This is an issue that will touch everyone’s life at some point.
Every day its estimated that another 6,000 people take on a caring responsibility – which equals 2 million people each year (Carers UK 2012)
Over the past 7 years the number of carers aged 80 and over has rocketed from 301,000 to 417,000, an increase of nearly 39%. Now 1 in 7 people aged 80 and over provide some form of care to family or friends. (AGE UK 2016)